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Research Proposal:An evaluation of effective safety and health training at an automotive company

Updated on November 18, 2014

Context of the research

In the automotive industry of South Africa, safety interventions are designed on the basis of perceptions of employees towards their safety needs (Sharon, 2006). Their perceptions about the current work environment, as well as about improving safety procedures determine their safety concerns (Sharon, 2006). Therefore, more safety and health training programs can create changes in the perception of employees working in the automotive industry of South Africa. It is also found that a strong safety climate at the workplace leads to lower injury rates (Smith, Huang, Ho and Chen, 2006). Stakeholders such as safety and health consultancies work with manufacturing organizations in order to provide training for creating a strong safety climate and for enhancing health and safety of employees (Erasmus, Van Wyk and Schenk, 2003: 582). They also design training programs through the involvement of employees and the employer (Bolton, 2009: 561; Johnson, 2011: 14; Whan, 2011: 33).

Different risks associated with the health and safety of the staff working in the South African automotive industry are noise, lighting, ventilation problems, temperature extremes, task and processes complexity and injuries (The South African Labor Guide, 2014). To mitigate these risks, the industry will require a comprehensive health and safety training program to equip its staffs with adequate skills to minimize health and safety risks (Hiles, 2010: 78; Hill & Jones, 2012: 130).

Companies conducts various health and safety-related training, but there has not been a review of its impact on accidents or incidents. This research therefore aims to evaluate the key types of accidents and incidents at the company and assess how training tries to address some these (trainable) accident/incident root-causes. This paper will help industry professionals and scholars to understand the importance of evaluation of effective safety and health training in the South African automotive industry (Blasé, 2004: 110; Aquinas, 2008: 134; Wokutch, 1992: 1).

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation Model

Kirkpatrick's (1996) four levels evaluation model was designed to determine the effectiveness of training programs. Evaluation according to Kirkpratrick (1996: 54 -59) starts with checking the reaction of the employees to training (at level 1) and is a measure of their perceptions. The next level proceeds with determining the learning outcomes (at level 2). The transfer in behavior and assessment of the results occur at level 3. Level 4 is the success measurement area of the program (Winfrey, 1999: 1).

Kirkpatrick’s model is criticized for not evaluating the cost-to-benefit ratio of training. A model incorporating a fifth level of evaluation has been introduced which focuses on the return on investment (ROI) (Phillips, 2003: 36).

The Kirkpatrick model will help in the research study to evaluate the effectiveness of health and safety training programs conducted at the company.The health and safety training programs will be evaluated on four levels. The fifth level of evaluation will not be covered in this study since it will extend the research beyond the current scope.

It is important to identify trends of accidents in evaluating the effectiveness of training because health and safety training programs are designed to provide a safe and healthy work environment as well as reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities (Mathew, Hart, Cathy, Neumann and Anthony, 2009). Ineffective training also results in workplace injuries and fatalities (Manwaring and Conroy, 1990). Identification of different causes of accidents from will be compared with training programmes already planned and/or delivered under the ISO 18001 Training Need Analysis and review their effectiveness.

Section 3: Aim of the study

The main aim of this study is to evaluate safety and health training effectiveness within the company as one of the mechanisms for accident/incident reduction.

Research goals

The research goals designed for this study are as follow:

  1. Evaluation of the company’s incident or accident reports to determine the trend in accidents’ root causes.
  2. Assess how safety and health training programme are being developed and/or delivered to mitigate these root causes.
  3. Evaluating the effectiveness of current safety and health training programs at the company using Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation model.
  4. Make recommendations for improvement on either the training approaches and/or training content as it relates to safety and healthy accidents/incidents at the company.

Section 4: Methods, procedures and techniques

The paradigm adopted is that of postpositivism. In order to achieve the research goals, the following data collection methods will be used.

Incident/accident reports of the company will be used to collect information about the types of accidents that occur with regards to safety and health issues at the company and will be evaluated against the IAPA Safety, Health and Environment managing model. This will then be compared to the organization’s ISO 18001 Training Need Analysis matrix to access alignment between accidents/incidents and training planned/delivered.

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of training at t. For each level, a different data collection method will be used. For Level One, the reaction of shop-floor employees to the training will be measured through a questionnaire. Questions will be asked related to instructor, training material, training content, the environment and presentation. At Level Two, the researcher will measure the learning outcomes of training against the defined learning objectives of the training program. For this purpose, supervisors whose personnel have undergone training will be interviewed. It will help to determine the change in the skill level and attitude of workers. At Level Three, the change in the behavior of workers will be measured by interviewing managers or supervisors whose personnel have undergone training. The interviews will provide insight into how trainees apply the acquired information after receiving training. At the Level Four, the final results of training will be analyzed. For this purpose, a questionnaire will be designed. The questionnaire will be forwarded to shop-floor employees and managers. Questions related to the outcomes will be considered such as increased productivity, increased morale and motivation of workers, decreased absenteeism and increase employee commitment.

Questionnaires will be designed with close-ended questions in order to get structured information from the respondents (Saunders et al., 2009: 141). A Likert scale will be used for designing the questionnaires. Although this research will be mainly quantitative in nature, open-ended questions and opportunities will also be included for more qualitative information. As for interviews, these will also be conducted in a mixed-method manner where quantitative and qualitative data will be collected from the identified employees.

The samples for the questionnaires and interviews will be selected through purposive sampling (Marshall, 1996).

Accident/incident reports will be collected from five SHEQ practitioners at the company. For evaluating level one of Kirkpatrick’s model, a questionnaire will be distributed to the sample of 150 shop-floor workers. For measuring the learning outcomes at level two, interviews will be conducted with five supervisors after the one week to six months of training program. A sample size of five manager or supervisors will be chosen in order to measure the change in the behavior of workers after training, which is the level three of Kirkpatrick’s model. For analyzing the results of training (level four), a questionnaire will be distributed to 150 shop-floor workers and five managers.

A quantitative analysis of data findings will be done to enable drawing of conclusions and provision of recommendations (Bitsch, 2005). For the analysis of the questionnaire, basic descriptive statistics be used in order to compare means of different variables. Data findings will be presented in tables, graphs, plots and frequency distributions.

The data collected from the interviews will be analyzed through coding (Creswell, 2003: 78). In coding, numerous categories will be developed in order to classify learning outcomes and behavior standards of workers of the company (Bogdan and Biklin, 1998).

Validity and reliability of research depends on pre-testing, questions and structure of the instrument (Saunders et al., 2009: 90; Patton & Cochran, 2002: 63). Pre-testing will be done prior to the distribution of the questionnaire. The validity of the questionnaire will be enhanced through designing structured and close-ended questions consistent with the objectives of this research. The internal consistency of the questionnaire will also be measured by asking similar questions in a different way (William, 2003).

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