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The Four Pillars of Workplace Safety

Woman holding a hard hat instructing a safety class

The Four Pillars of Workplace Safety

Two workers standing on elevated platforms with Fall Protection gearTwo workers standing on elevated platforms with Fall Protection gear



Occupational safety is a big job. For new safety leaders, getting oriented quickly and positioning to be effective may be challenging. The ‘Four Pillars’ approach to safety, crafted by subject matter experts, is designed to help you focus on what’s important for early success.



The 4 Pillars of Workplace Safety: Comprehensive worker safety & skills training, Deliver quality safety courses, Measure your team's knowledge, and Prepare for scaleThe 4 Pillars of Workplace Safety: Comprehensive worker safety & skills training, Deliver quality safety courses, Measure your team's knowledge, and Prepare for scale

Comprehensive Worker Safety & Skills Training

Training Documentation

The first reason to get safety training documentation and reporting together is that it is required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) across many standards. Many OSHA training requirements begin with “employer shall provide training”; it is implied here that employers must then be able to provide proof that training has been provided.

Safety Training Management

Many safety leaders are turning to online learning management systems (LMS) to solve for compliance course delivery. As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain a centrally-managed safety training schedule that achieves training goals. A LMS automates compliance training delivery and provides your workers with a password-protected online portal for access to a personal training program—workers just have to login and complete training.

Training for Common OSHA Violations

To provide your workforce with a basic safety education, you’ll want to make sure to focus on the most common hazards associated with your industry. OSHA’s list of the top ten most frequently cited safety standards contains a mix of Construction and General Industry standards that provide employers with a basic roadmap for training programs. Topics like Hazard Communication and Fall Protection are two examples of frequent citations that safety leaders can prevent through comprehensive safety training.

Follow New OSHA Standards & Regulations

To stay in-step with the evolving landscape of occupational safety & health requirements, take advantage of the free OSHA resources that bring information to you. Sign up for QuickTakes. OSHA's online newsletter provides the latest news about enforcement actions, rulemaking, outreach activities, compliance assistance, and training and educational resources. Follow OSHA on Twitter @OSHA_DOL. See a list of new OSHA publications and compliance assistance resources.


Deliver Quality Safety Courses

Accredited Safety Training Created with Subject Matter Experts

The training you provide your workforce needs to demonstrate understanding of the real working hazards, conditions, and scenarios that workers will encounter on the job. In short, it needs to reflect their experiences. This is important not just for credibility or compliance, but also for engagement and understanding. Look for courses accredited for continuing education, which have been reviewed for quality standards by independent governing bodies.

Blended Safety Training Models

Certain OSHA safety standards require hands-on, live instruction while others are best online, for consistency. It is important to recognize this not only for compliance purposes, but for training comprehension, engagement, and safety culture. First, workers have different learning styles; what works for one team or group, may not work well for another. Second, in terms of effectiveness, there is no substitute for small-group live training. Many experienced safety pros use online training for compliance courses and refresher training to ensure that they have more time to facilitate live training sessions, for a “blended training” approach.

Training in Native Languages

According to OSHA, employers must provide training that workers can understand. This letter of interpretation from OSHA explains it well. No matter how many different languages are spoken within your workforce, by any number of employees, businesses have an obligation to provide safety and health training that successfully educates workers on the hazards they are exposed to in working environments.

Maximizing Training Engagement

There’s no OSHA standard for ensuring your safety training program is engaging or interesting, but remember that employers do have a responsibility to demonstrate that workers understand your training and can show competency on the subject matter. Consider this statistic: after six days, people forget 75 percent of the information in their training. This is why is it critical for new safety leaders to deliver safety training in ways that promote engagement and interactivity. Online training is a great way to improve memorability; it has been shown to increase training retention rates between 25 – 60%.


Measure Your Team’s Knowledge

Testing for Safety Training Knowledge

OSHA’s compliance officers evaluate whether or not the safety training you provide to workers is understood. As a new safety leader, how do you successfully demonstrate that employees understand the required training provided and knowledge acquired? Testing for proficiency is the answer, and documenting the results. Online safety training systems make this simple by administering tests at the end of safety courses and documenting the results for each employee in a simple, reportable fashion. This is far easier to orchestrate than maintaining paper files.

Auditing Specialty Training Requirements

OSHA’s training requirements are driven by hazard exposure. Because of that, not all workers or teams require the same level of safety training. Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) is one example of an OSHA training requirement that is more focused than a general safety topic, but may only apply to a fraction of your workforce. Yet for workers or teams that fall under this standard, it is important that new safety leaders understand when training was first completed, when refresher training is due, and arrange all of the supporting documentation.

Offering Training Assistance

With respect to online safety training, this is what OSHA has to say about offering assistance to employees actively working through safety courses and programs…

“…In an effective training program, it is critical that trainees have the opportunity to ask questions where material is unfamiliar to them.”

Whether helping workers access the safety training technology you use, or helping them work through safety courses, it is a good idea to have a plan for providing this support to your workforce. This effort also helps to maximize your training investment and drive successful outcomes.

Building Training Communication Pathways

Simple, recurring, and automated training feedback loops help new safety leaders realize success faster as they surface impactful changes. Not all suggestions or feedback on safety training content is going to be insightful or even helpful, but it is important to respond to feedback and adopt suggestions that create a better safety experience. Examples of training feedback mechanisms include: simple online surveys, end of course comment sections, end of course star ratings (for online safety courses), open discussion during safety meetings, etc.


Prepare for Scale

Standardizing the Training Experience

New safety leaders need to build safety training programs that scale. That means finding ways to deliver training that are efficient and can grow with your company. ‘Scale’ also means the ability to reach and train geographically dispersed workers, workers at different job sites or locations, and workers in different countries. The best way to accomplish this is to develop and deliver standardized safety training experiences. The benefits of safety training standardization are realized through consistency in training for hazard exposures, consistency in safety messaging, and ease of safety training program administration.

Supporting Workforce Development

For new safety leaders, one of the biggest opportunities to improve safety performance is to begin developing more safety leaders within your organization. There are 10 safety professional certifications available to members of your workforce that would like to explore occupational safety and health as a career pathway, as trainers, managers, and subject matter experts. Cultivating these skills in your workforce increases the level of safety knowledge and creates additional pillars for your safety culture.


Occupational safety is a big job. With the right structure new safety leaders can quickly position themself to react to the daily challenges. Employ these ‘Four Pillars’ to help you focus on what’s important for safety in the workplace.

November 17, 2021

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Safety Guy
January 30, 2023
I love your article. Not many safety blogs talk about testing knowledge. I know it's silly but I love this site for their Safety Topic & Safety Quiz Ideas. Sometimes making a game out of it reinforces the concepts you are teaching just a little bit better. Plus, you can sometimes find out who may need additional training before they get hurt.