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The importance of Safety Training in the workplace

For all businesses, it is important that operators of any equipment are thoroughly trained in every aspect of operation.

For all businesses, it is important that operators of any equipment are thoroughly trained in every aspect of operation. With insurance premiums soaring and the Ministry of Labour enforcing its guidelines, companies have become very conscious of liability issues.

They want the best equipment for the job and they want employees with the knowledge to operate that equipment safely and efficiently. Industries such as mining, pulp and paper and construction, where there are intrinsic hazards due to location and activity, must have well-trained operators.

A workplace can become a second home to many employees, due to the amount of time people spend at work. Ensuring their safety is an important responsibility and should be taken seriously by employers and employees alike.

 Accumulative safety statistics report that on average over 200 people are killed each year in accidents at work and millions of others are injured or suffer work-related illnesses. 

Incorporating prevention and proactive work practices should be a main priority for everyone to have at their workplace. The benefits of maintaining a safe work environment are many, but first and foremost, safety is about what can be done to protect a workforce. “It’s the right thing to do. Employers want to send their workers home in the same condition they came in. 

"Why wouldn’t that be important to everyone?” says Mike Kapanen, certified trainer at the Sudbury location. 

As a part of the after-sale commitment, Equipment World offers operator training on every piece of equipment it sells to their customers. In compliance with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Ministry of Labour, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Equipment World has developed their own safety training programs in collaboration with their nationally recognized equipment manufacturers of lift equipment such as Toyota, Skyjack, Genie/Terex, Snorkel and JLG.

Equipment World Safety Training Programs are geared to groups of all sizes and knowledge levels. They meet all relevant government and industry standards and all trainers have been certified. 

Training courses include both classroom and practical (hands-on) segments, review/recap of materials discussed, question and answer periods, and a written evaluation. Upon successful completion, each participant receives a certificate and record of training. Specific training courses are offered for Forklifts (Class I, II, III, IV, V, VII), Rough Terrain Forklifts, Liquid Propane Cylinder Exchange, Aerial Work Platforms, Booms & Scissorlifts, Fall Protection, Confined Space Rescue and Skid Steer Operator. Other specialty training is available upon request. 

Kapanen says, “As a Certified Trainer at Equipment World, I strongly stress to my students that knowledge is the power to doing things the right way safely. How can we assure ourselves we are doing it in a safe manner if we don’t have the proper training behind us? The importance of good training will help the worker to develop and maintain effective hazard control activities; it is a proven and successful method of intervention.” He continues, “In my years as a Heavy Equipment Operator, I realized early on the true benefits of receiving great training. During that time working on a number of pipeline construction projects I witnessed firsthand how accidents affect the lives of people and quickly became aware of how important it was to not become complacent.” Kapanen adds, “It was my responsibility to make certain I didn’t hurt myself or anyone in the process of getting the job done.” 

Blair Wihlidal is the Certified Trainer at the Thunder Bay location.

"We like to provide training at customers’ locations, using the actual equipment on site so its applications on the job can be analyzed, and specific situations or problems on the job site can be addressed," says Wihlidal. "We can conduct an on-site survey of the customer's facility, and offer recommendations on improving efficiency and safety when necessary. We train the end-user operators and we can train the trainer, for people who will be teaching their fellow employees how to operate the equipment."  

Enrolled in his courses are customers from all sectors of industry whether it's natural resource industry such as mines and forestry, trucking companies, labour unions, or other local suppliers. They all fall under the same compliance rules. The company also regularly hosts open enrollment courses at each of their multi-media facilities, which allow a variety of people to attend. These courses are designed to make training viable for those who may have one or two employees requiring training or for people who are seeking employment and want to add qualifications to their resume. “Up to 15 people are booked into the open enrollment courses which can make for some very interesting discussion topics, as there can be a real mix of industry representatives in each course.” Wihlidal concludes, "If I don’t teach people the right way of operating these machines someone can lose their life. If the machine is 80 feet in the air, you don’t get a second chance when things go wrong. You need to do it right the first time."  

The demand for training has been so great that Kevin Kelly, the certified trainer at the Sault Ste. Marie location, has recently become a full-time trainer teaching a variety of different courses a month both in-house and on the road.

“Training has been a growing segment of our business over the past five years,” Kelly says, “and with the support of Equipment World, I have been able to continue to expand my education and knowledge in the safety and training field.” Kelly continues, "I love the people. There are a broad range of people who come to the courses with varying degrees of knowledge and confidence. Providing further education to our customers and the general public allows for a more conscientious workplace and enhances self-esteem."  

"As with our other product specialties, we provide the most innovative and professional approach in servicing the fall protection industry sector," Kelly states. "We have become leaders in aerial safety in Northern Ontario, which is a good fit with our aerial platform business in the sales, rental and service of scissor lifts, booms, and related work platforms." As well as providing fall protection training, each location is well equipped with a complete stock of general fall protection products to meet industry needs.
Statistics from the Ministry of Labour indicate that an effective safety training program can reduce accidents by as much as 70 per cent. Kelly says, "Staying aware of the industry trends and concerns brings safety to the forefront. It is important to continually monitor upcoming ministry regulations to ensure everyone maintains a safer workplace.”
The practice of safety also brings financial benefits to a company as a safe work environment impacts the bottom line both directly and indirectly. Costs associated with incidents, including lost opportunity costs, worker’s compensation claims, insurance costs and legal fees are minimized in a safe work environment. So are the indirect costs that follow incidents, including the lost productivity that occurs when people turn their attention to dealing with an incident. “If you’re doing safety effectively in the business world, it’s going to relate to fewer schedule interruptions, which will minimize your costs,” says Kapanen.
When individuals appreciate their safe work environment, they become more engaged and actively contribute to the team. When they feel like they can make a difference, there is a rise in productivity, fewer staff absences, less staff turnover and an improved quality of work. The positive business benefits of safety extend into employee morale and beyond the financials.

A solid safety program can also help protect a company’s reputation. “Lost time means poor service quality,” Kapanen says. “This can lead to customer dissatisfaction and loss of future business.” Equipment World helps companies defend their hard-earned reputation by helping them improve the safety of their workers. 

Equipment World started providing training services in the early 1990s when an opportunity arose with a local labour union organization which hired the company to provide forklift safety training for their members. “This motivated us to launch a safety training division believing that it completed our full-service concept, as it related to our equipment sales and service offerings,” says Lyle Knudsen, company owner and former trainer.
Knudsen continues to say, “Our training division has become a major asset in the Equipment World family. We have friendly, knowledgeable trainers available at each of our locations who are fully certified and can train throughout Northern Ontario. Equipment World maintains a strong supporter of associations such as the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services with regular attendance at regional Health & Safety Conferences and Trade Shows. Over the years we have been able to increase and refine our course curriculum while maintaining true to the safety basics. Although our training division is a revenue generator for our company, more importantly, it serves to satisfy our obligation toward healthier and safer workplaces.”
People cannot be forced to learn but Equipment World can work with them to encourage and help them to do so in line with your business goals and strategy. When it comes to safety, Kapanen sums it up this way: “If you’re not learning, you’re not living.” Ignorance, complacency, haste and distraction can contribute to an unsafe working environment. Training can have a positive impact on the working practices of a workforce. If your employees are well informed and understand the importance of their personal safety, they are more likely to follow safe working procedures.
In 2012 Equipment World expanded its Sudbury facility to accommodate a dedicated multi-media boardroom for the primary purpose of training. Kapanen says, “Last year at the Sudbury division I trained over 800 people and this new on-site facility is excellent to allow for our growing traffic. It’s a great feeling to know that I’m doing my part to help these people work more safely at their place of employment.”
Human resources (the employees) need to be protected, as they are the most important asset of an organization. Human life is priceless. Safety needs to be an important priority at a workplace and Equipment World can help make this happen.