The Importance of Compliance Training

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“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson.I find that when we talk about compliance and the importance of health and safety, of risk assessments and safe systems of work, we are often reminded of what happens when things go wrong – these examples are meant to serve as reminders and warnings of what happens when compliance is not given the credence it deserves and so drives us into action. 

One of the starkest examples of this is the tragic events that took place at the theme park Alton Towers in 2015. When a fun day out, during a sunny June day, people were excitedly queuing for the parks newest ride – The Smiler – a rollercoaster that had more loops than any other in the world ended in tragedy. A carriage carrying 16 people devastatingly slammed into another empty car – trapping those on the ride 20 ft in the air. 11 people required medical attention, 5 were seriously injured, with 2 ultimately requiring partial leg amputations.

Not only did this incident have seriously traumatic impacts on those on the ride, both physically and mentality, but it also severally impacted the business. Alton Towers’ reputation clearly suffered, visitor numbers dropped, contributing to 190 redundancies, they were fined £5 million and four years later the victims were finally awarded a multimillion-pound compensation. 

The subsequent investigation revealed that there were no technical or mechanical issues with the ride. The accident was caused by human error when poorly trained staff manually overrode the safety control systems. As I understand it staff were so used to alarms going off, they would just override them, ignore them and carry on. According to judge this was a “needless and avoidable accident.”

Compliance should clearly not just be a tick box exercise and as the Smiler incident demonstrates nor should the staff training around it. Sadly, we find this isn’t always the case, where compliance training whether it be on health and safety, or anti bribery, or data protection, or even topics like diversity and inclusion is seen as a chore – where employees are sheep dipped through learning, often on their first day. This approach may reduce a Company’s liability, but does it engage the staff to act differently, or to embrace these topics with positive intent. 

I find that much like the health warnings on cigarette packages when we only focus on the negative potential impact of doing something wrong, our minds struggle to relate to these unimaginable possibilities. So, subconsciously perhaps, we believe those consequences will never happen to us and we naively view compliance as something that has be done rather than an engaging force for good.

Our compliance courses are built around stories to make them relatable and engaging. But also, because we don’t just want to focus on the dark side of compliance, when things go wrong, but the also the positive impact and the brighter, better world we can create if we focus on the benefits – we believe this approach is more likely to generate action.