Safety Learning Needs Analysis

Safety Learning Needs Analysis

Guest Post by George Robotham from


Learning needs analysis is one of the basic tools of the effective learning facilitator, without its use your learning will be at best informed guesswork. A recent exercise emphasised to me the vital nature of learning needs analysis and I have revised my earlier paper. The exercise I conducted identified the vital role of interpersonal and communications skills in safety. The recent exercise also revealed a number of things that initially looked like they required a learning fix, actually required a different sort of fix.

Supervisor / manager safety learning

Research into successful safety programs has proven the necessity and importance of properly structured safety learning for supervisors and managers. It is not unusual in private industry in Australia for newly-appointed supervisors and managers to receive up to 5 days of safety learning.

The following outlines one company’s approach to supervisor and manager safety learning:

Hazard Identification / Risk Assessment / Hazard Control

4 hours

For all levels of personnel

  • Types of hazards
  • Practical exercise recognising hazards
  • Risk assessment-practical and theory using probability, consequence and exposure
  • Practical and theory of hazard control using the hierarchy of controls

Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety

1 day

For leading hands, supervisors and managers (mandatory course to be promoted to a supervisor)

  • Company safety policy and procedures
  • Supervisors responsibility for safety
  • Common law principles as they apply to safety management
  • Workers compensation and rehabilitation
  • Statutory obligations of supervisors

Accident Investigation

2 days

For members of accident investigation teams, leading hands.

Supervisors and managers (mandatory course to be promoted to a supervisor)

  • Size of the accident problem
  • Myths & misconceptions about safety
  • Influence of design on accident causation
  • Cause versus essential factors
  • Theory and practical (including practical exercises) application of Geoff McDonald Accident
  • Reference Tree-Trunk method of accident investigation

Introduction to Occupational Health

1 day

For supervisors and managers (mandatory to be appointed as a senior supervisor)

  • History of occupational health and industrial hygiene
  • Occupational health principles
  • Chemicals control
  • Toxic hazards in industry
  • Methods of control of occupational health problems (eg. audiometric testing, noise testing, dust testing and control, control of radiation hazards, RSI, back care )
  • Supervisors role in occupational health

Management developments in occupational health & safety

1 day

For the senior management team at an operating location)

  • Latest Occupational Health and Safety developments-employer association, union, A.C.T.U., and legislative trends
  • Significant Occupational Health and Safety issues in the company and emerging trends
  • Advanced safety techniques (eg. auditing, fault-tree analysis, Hazop, safety communications, job safety analysis)
  • Analysis of the effectiveness of the sites current safety approach
  • Generic health and safety competencies for “front-line managers” have been developed, these competencies would seem a natural starting point for anyone developing safety learning programs for supervisors and managers.

Learning needs analysis

Research has proven the effectiveness of structured learning needs analysis as a basis of designing learning events for all levels of staff. It is a bit like baking a cake, for the safety learning cake to taste superbly you must identify the ingredients so you can put them into the mix. In the safety area, management and safety personnel can provide some insight into course content but for effective learning this insight must be backed up by structured learning needs analysis. A learning need exists when there is a gap between what is required of a person to perform their duties competently and what they actually know that enables them to do so (Kroehnert, 10). Generally the learning needs analysis will highlight the subject matter needed to be covered during the instruction. The knowledge gained by the participants will help to increase their level of ability and allow them to perform their tasks at an acceptable level.

Learning programs

For structured learning programs to be effective they must meet a number of conditions. Three of these conditions are (Drummond, 2 )

1. That skills to be acquired by those attending the learning are identified before the learning is started

2. The end results of the learning must be identified before the learning starts starts

3. There must be a work-based benefit as the result of the learning

In other words there must be a need for the learning before the learning begins. T.L.A. ensures only necessary learning occurs and is directed towards an identified need. Information must be gathered from a variety of sources. A careful analysis of the data collected from each source is required to clearly show

1. The job

2. The desired standards of performance in each job

3. Whether differences in performance standards or shortfalls in knowledge, skills or attitudes can be overcome by learning

4. The performance standards of the individual or group

5. The skills, knowledge and attitudes of individuals and groups carrying out their jobs relative to the work being performed

Care must be taken to ensure that the cause of the learning gap-the real need-is identified, and reaction is not just made to a symptom of the need.

For the analysis to be successful, four basic elements are necessary ( Drummond, 6 )

1. Identified learning needs must be supported by evidence for the need

2. There must be commitment, support and participation by senior management towards the analysis and its results

3. There must be total support, participation and co-operation by department and section heads towards obtaining the data for the analysis

4. There must be support by all levels of management for the learning program that results from the analysis

The analysis of organisational problems may reveal that a learning solution is required but learning may not necessarily be the best fix. It is necessary to ask what causes the problem or situation.


The following model is a representation of a six step process of identifying learning needs (Australian Institute of Training & Development).

training needs analysis

Figure 1 (Source : AITD Six Step Process Of Identifying Training Needs)

A learning needs analysis is a vehicle of change( Drummond, 7) T.L.A. may be seen as a threat by some and as with anything which brings about change it is essential to involve as many people as possible and keep everyone informed about progress. To overcome these concerns the T.L.A. should be conducted in a series of well-defined steps

1. Discussions with senior management

2. Establish the T.L.A. objectives and schedule

3. Identify the sources of information

4. Establish the data collection method

5. Schedule the collection of information

6. Analysis of the data & identification of learning needs

7. Development of learning objectives

8. Develop the learning plan

9. Prepare the T.L.A. report.

The T.L.A. report must cover the following points (Drummond, 12)

1. The learning needs identified

2. Which individuals or groups have the identified learning needs

3. Facts which support the needs

4. The training needs objectives

5. A proposed learning plan

6. An estimate of the costs of learning

7. A time-span for the learning

8. Cost benefits of the learning

9. Those needs which exist the cannot be overcome through learning

Example of a practical L.N.A. approach

The following is a simple approach to learning needs analysis that has been endorsed by the Q.U.T. Faculty of Education

To carry out a safety learning needs analysis form groups of 5 – 10 of your target groups and lead them in the learning needs analysis (the number of groups you facilitate must be representative of the total numbers in the target group) In some cases a structured questionnaire can be used to gather information instead of facilitating large numbers of groups.

  • Define the safety components (existing and desired) and standards of performance of the work the groups carry out
  • Brainstorm the KNOWLEDGE,
  • SKILLS and
  • ABILITIES (ATTITUTES) required to do the job to the required standard
  • Design the learning event to meet the identified SKILLS,

A general guide to sample size for different staff numbers is as follows (Drummond, 20)



6 or below



40 – 50%


20 –30%




Learning needs analysis is one of the basic tools of the effective learning facilitator, without its use your learning will be at best informed guesswork. Without formal L.N.A. you may be driving really fast on your learning journey but could easily be on the wrong road.


Australian Institute of Training and Development, (1999) Analysing Training Needs, A.I.T.D., Lalor, Vic

Drummond, Ken, (1993) Training Needs Analysis, Gull Publishing, Coolum Beach, Qld.,

Kroehnert, Gary, (1993) Basic Training For Trainers, McGraw Hill Book Company, Roseville, N.S.W

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

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