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Workplace Training and Instruction

Viimati uuendatud: 13.05.2020


On average, thirteen occupational accidents occur in Estonia every day, a fifth of all occupational accidents have serious consequences, and we lose almost a million working hours per year due to the accidents! This is often caused by insufficient training and instruction of the employee, failure to observe the requirements introduced in the course of the instruction, and issues with the election and appointment of the employees in charge of occupational health and safety.

An organisation which values the employees’ health and the company’s profitability has:

  • a well thought-out and well-organised instruction and training system;
  • appointed a working environment specialist who organises occupational health and safety-related activities pursuant to the requirements of legislation;
  • elected an employees’ representative in the issues related to the working environment, i.e. a working environment representative;
  • identified, assessed, and inspected the working environment risk factors, i.e. drawn up a risk analysis;
  • drawn up safety instructions for the works performed and work equipment used;
  • regulated the use of personal protective equipment;
  • organised the employees’ health checks by an occupational health doctor;
  • established a system for the management of the working environment, i.e. the system of conducting internal audits;
  • a good safety culture, i.e. the manner of going about business.

Instruction and training

Occupational health and safety-related instruction and training play an important part in creating a safe and effective working environment. This is the foundation of prevention, helping to prevent accidents and the formation and deepening of occupational diseases.

Thoroughly planned and expertly provided instruction and training increase the efficiency of work and reduce costs. If employees receive important information in a clear and logical manner, they will get settled at the company better and will make fewer mistakes in performing their duties.

In order to ensure efficient instruction and training, it would be a good idea to draw up a description of the organisation of instruction and training at the company. The procedure may not be necessary at a small company with a few employees but, if there are more employees, it would be good if such an important issue was thought through and written down. It is common practice that the organisation of occupational health and safety at the company is introduced to all employees by one person; there may, however, be several different people who instruct the employees on how to perform a specific task safely. It is a good idea to write down who will be providing which instruction to whom in order to make sure that it is clear for everyone involved. Recording these things in writing is also necessary because if the person who organises instruction and training at the company is replaced, the new employee will have a clear overview of how this area is organised at the company.

The legislation includes the minimum requirements for the topics which must be introduced to a new employee; the range of topics may be wider depending on the specific circumstances of the company. The most important information which must be introduced to an employee in the course of the instruction includes:

  • the company’s occupational health and safety requirements and the contact details of the working environment representative and working environment specialist;
  • the results of the risk assessment of the working environment, including the risk factors, health risks, and the measures implemented to prevent injuries in the employee’s working environment;
  • the safety requirements of the work performed and any work equipment used;
  • proper ergonomic work positions and techniques;
  • the use of collective means of protection and personal protective equipment;
  • action in the case of an injury, incl. the instructions for giving first aid, instructions on how to use first aid equipment and the location of the equipment, the 112 emergency number, and the contact details of the first aid provider;
  • electricity and fire safety requirements;
  • the instructions for action in the event of a risk of an accident or an accident, the hazard signs used at the workplace, the locations of the emergency exits and evacuation routes, as well as fire extinguishers;
  • the instructions to follow in order to prevent polluting the environment.

The instruction will be conducted on the basis of the safety instruction(s).

Training

After instruction, a training must be organised for the employee. The training must be organised to teach safe work techniques at the workplace, taking into consideration the peculiarity and hazardousness of the employee’s work, among other things.

For a training to be productive, it is necessary to think carefully about who should train the new employee. The trainer must be an employee whose safety behaviour is impeccable, otherwise the new employee will acquire improper work techniques and beliefs. The training employee must also have enough time for this in addition to performing their duties.

The employee who is tasked with training a new employee must also be aware of the task. The trainee must also be aware of who has been tasked with training them, i.e. who they may turn to.

The duration of the training is determined by the employer depending on the peculiarity and hazardousness of the work, for example, training an office employee may only take an hour or two. This time is used to teach to the employee how to make their workplace suitable (e.g. how to adjust their desk chair) and other factors important from the perspective of the safety of the specific workplace.

Follow-up instruction

An employee’s instruction must be repeated when:

  • there are any changes in the organisation of occupational health and safety at the company;
  • the employee’s duties change or the employer provides a new piece of equipment or technology to the employee;
  • the employee has been away from work for a prolonged period of time;
  • the employee has violated occupational safety requirements which caused or may have caused an accident, including an occupational accident;
  • it is deemed necessary by the employee, the employer, or the Labour Inspectorate.

As different work operations are of different levels of complexity, it is not a good idea to set a specific period of time after which the employee will require further instruction. Instead, it is reasonable to make this decision separately for each position; in the case of some jobs, further instruction and training (perhaps in a limited extent) may already be required after a break of a few months, for example.

It may also be necessary to train an employee after instructions because, for example, they will be using a new piece of equipment and require training on how to use the piece of equipment safely in practice.

Permission to work

The employer should permit an employee to work when they are convinced that the employee is familiar with the organisation of occupational health and safety at the company and can apply safe work techniques in practice. It is not necessary to register permitting an employee to work. Consider at your company whether or not it is necessary to record the time when the employer (e.g. the direct supervisor, shift manager) was convinced that an employee can apply safe work techniques in practice.

Registration of instruction and training

The employer must register the date and topic of the instructions or trainings in writing or in a format which can be reproduced in writing.

The employee must confirm having received instruction or training in writing or in a format which can be reproduced in writing.

A format which can be reproduced in writing means that the registration must enable permanent reproduction in writing but must not necessarily be signed. For example, an instruction provided may be registered in a database where the employee must then confirm that they are aware of the instructions.

The purpose of the registration of instructions and trainings is to make sure that the employer can prove having organised the instruction or training, if necessary.

Registration is necessary for checking whether all employees have received the required instruction and training. Whether or not there is a procedure for instruction and training, it is necessary to occasionally check whether everything is functioning as planned, for example, in the course of an internal audit.

Evidence may be required in the course of an investigation of an occupational accident, for example, to determine whether the accident could have been caused by insufficient instruction and training. The employer may also be required to prove having organised instruction and training in a court action over compensation for damages caused by an occupational accident or disease.

If instructions and trainings are not properly registered, the employer has very few other options to prove that they have fulfilled the requirements. Witness statements may also be used as evidence, but if the events which require proving occurred years or decades ago, it would be unreasonable to hope that witnesses will remember exactly what happened.

Registration of instructions must unambiguously show which instructions the employee has familiarised themselves with. Registration of trainings must show in which extent and when a training has been organised. If instructions and trainings are confirmed in a database by the employee, it must be possible to identify who has confirmed having received the instruction or training.

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