It’s known that a worker is more susceptible to being injured while under training. Often the training is actually put in place to reduce the risk of injuries actually happening in the first place. But when we talk about military or police training, it’s often brushed over as an acceptable risk due to the increased risks associated with their job once fully qualified.

Now, while in some ways, I don’t disagree, thinking about it that way doesn’t excuse simple failures of design and planning. Some hazards are intrinsic in their nature and need to be experienced if one is to be able to perform their job safely once trained. Working with explosives, firearms, plant or machinery or sharp knives in a kitchen all need to be experienced directly during the training process in order to be able to do the job once ‘trained’.

While, I’ll not comment directly on the case or the circumstances of two recruits being injured at Puckapunyal linked below, catastrophic potential hazards indirectly related to the specific training or competency should have additional precautions put in place at the planning stage to protect workers, even more so for trainees. I’m unaware of what the specific failings which led to the two recruits injuries and the charges the Department of Defence subsequently received except the article below stating they related to risk management and hazard identification. It’s doubly sad given I clearly remember being told time and time again about very similar incidents occurring during my time in the military.

To illustrate the point about protecting trainees: if you’re training a young apprentice fitter/mechanic, but one that doesn’t yet have the experience ‘on the levers’ of a plant operator, they should not be set up to fail by getting them to drive the machine over the wash bay before they’ve had the time on the ground to learn traffic management, and how the machine behaves, what to do/not to do etc. Even trained fitters are a danger operating plant because they can often miss the proper training of ‘operator skills’, yet think their knowledge of the engine etc. is enough to overcome nuances taught in hours behind the levers or wheel. Couple this with an industry arrogance of knowing better because of a trade is absolutely a reason why maintenance staff are disproportionally more likely to be killed around plant if you factor in their hours of actually operating the machines.

I’m not trying to add fuel to the fitter/operator argument, as it’s just one small example among many where we can easily put workers at risk unnecessarily especially during training. Too often hazards like this are ignored because they’re peripheral issues to the core theme of the job or the training, and easily missed when risk assessing these activities. These are the ones that seem to slip through more often when under training, and that tells me one thing.

This one thing is if these hazards are injuring/killing workers when the experience is lower or the training hasn’t been completed, that training or experience is being heavily relied upon as the critical and often only key control. It’s a reminder we need to think broader about how we train workers so they get experience around the core competencies while protecting them from getting killed or injured by other hazards sitting in our blind spots (e.g. above our heads in the dark).

Training is important. Training that evolves to be realistic and often quite realistic or hazardous is often essential. Don’t forget the trainee still needs to be able to focus on those things so they get benefit from the training.

So don’t forget to protect them from semi or unrelated hazards in their workplace while they learn.

Comcare media release: Recruits injured during training

Note: Image used purely for illustration purposes. It is unrelated to the Comcare media release or this blog post. Please contact the author for credit/request for deletion.