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Chances are, you’ve spent time and money training an employee or contractor who already had the proper training credentials. While not all training can be standardized, there is a substantial amount of savings that can be realized through reciprocal training systems.

Reciprocal training systems help companies save time and money by eliminating redundant employee training. The system is designed to meet all OSHA requirements and is regularly updated to reflect changes in regulations and industry. Administered by third parties, these systems also incorporate secure, auditable records.

The concept of reciprocity is rooted in collective membership in a voluntary organization. Members agree to accept the training credentials that employees earned while working for another member, and in exchange the other company reciprocates. By centralizing the elements of safety training that can be standardized, reciprocal systems eliminate the waste involved in redundant retraining. In addition, an employer can be confident that every employee of a participating contractor has received the same level of training before stepping onto a site for the first time.

If an employee completes reciprocal training, his or her next employer can instantly access independent verification of that training and send that employee to the next step in the onboarding process. Employers are still responsible for any training specific to their sites and equipment, but the savings can still be significant. Since most power generation companies are required to have their rates approved by public service commissions or other government entities, the benefits offered by an efficient reciprocal program are clear.

This type of system is especially useful in densely populated areas, because they often have a relatively high concentration of power plants. In this environment, a contractor may work for multiple companies and an individual employee may work for multiple contractors. The Northeast and the Sunbelt are regions that offer significant opportunities for reciprocal safety programs to expand, cutting the cost of generating power or slowing the rate at which those costs grow.

Those that provide reciprocal training assume responsibility for verifying the identity of each trainee, ensuring that the person who receives certification credentials is the person who received the training. This can be done by either administering the content and testing in a controlled, proctored environment or through the use of specialized security software.

Reciprocal training offers owners and contractors the confidence that comes from a legally defensible, auditable system that ensures OSHA compliance. Employing a reciprocal training system will make your training regimen more efficient and speed up your hiring process while saving you money.

There’s no doubt that work in the utility industry can be dangerous. Many routine tasks are carried out in confined spaces, high off the ground or near high-voltage power sources and flammable materials. A 2018 study by DEKRA Organizational Safety & Reliability, a consulting group that specializes in workplace safety, found that the risk of serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) is higher in the utility sector than in other heavy industries, including mining, manufacturing and construction. Here are the top three risks and information on how to mitigate them:

#1 Slip and Falls

It’s not so much that we need to relearn how to walk; it’s that we should be more mindful of the ways we walk in certain environments. For example, training might emphasize making wide turns at corners to avoid hazards that can’t be seen. Other simple steps that training can reinforce include carrying a flashlight to move safely through dark areas and reporting or cleaning up spills that might cause others to slip. Those who work outside should be taught to adjust the way they walk depending on inclement weather, i.e., leaves or standing water obscuring holes in the ground or creating tripping hazards after a storm.

#2 Ladder Safety

When a task seems simple, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s not very important. Ladder safety training helps workers see common risks when you’re in a hurry. For example, a worker may be tempted to repurpose a ladder as a makeshift bridge or scaffold with potentially serious consequences.

#3 Repetitive Motion

Preventing this type of injury requires training in a subject that may seem even less likely than the ones discussed above: stretching exercises. Maintaining flexibility can prevent many musculoskeletal problems, especially as workers age.

Developing a comprehensive training program that incorporates reinforcement, and keeping that program up to date, is a daunting task. One approach is to take advantage of standardized, OSHA-compliant training programs. It’s important to remember that even the most thorough training can only be one component of a broader culture of safety. To be successful, that culture must involve continuous reinforcement and open channels of communication at all staffing levels.