Jurnal Pendidikan

Setting new standards in safety training: The Australian Association of Convenience Stores’ (AACS) e Learning package for handling dangerous goods in petrol and convenience stores
Moon, Sheryle. Training and Development in Australia 37. 6 (Dec 2010): 40-41.
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Just as convenience stores are evolving, so too must the training that their employees undertake. According to the AACS State of Industry Report 2009, staff turnover in convenience stores runs at an average of 36 per cent and, at the highest, 56 per cent. This makes it difficult for operators to train new employees in one of the most regulated industries in Australia. Not only are there age restrictions on the sale of certain product categories, such as tobacco and lottery, there is also food service safety compliance and ‘Handling of Dangerous Goods’, which is the most onerous in terms of understanding the associated legislation and regulations that apply-particularly on a petrol forecourt. There have been a number of incidents in NSW over the past two years that have involved customers filling a petrol container without ensuring it’s earthed correcdy on the ground. A recent example caused a minor explosion and fire, which inflicted bums on both the man filling the container and his daughter who was sitting on the tailgate of the vehicle.
The design and development of the simulation training was overseen by a group of subject matter experts, a group of members and key HSSE Managen who form the AACS Forum on Health, Safety, Security and Environment. Their input into providing real-life incidents contributed to the realism of the program. Similarly, AACS relied on the assistance and input from NSW WorkCover staff-not just in the learning and development area but also in the audit and compliance area of the agency.

  • Chapter 3 contains a unique learning activity: a simulation appropriately called “The Day from Hell”. Participants face a day in the life of an employee who is working at a medium-sized local convenience store that is attached to a petrol forecourt. During the simulation they are faced with some of the serious challenges that exist every day in the industry, and they are forced to make decisions based on the best course of action to take. Depending on their choices and the safety of the site, the lives of their colleagues and customers might come under jeopardy. Scenarios included in the simulation cover site checks, fuel spills, managing difficult customers, static electricity and more.

Currently, the simulation training is specific to the NSW WorkCover legislation and regulations. AACS, however, is keen to develop the program to meet National Standards as the harmonised OH&S are agreed upon across all states and territories over the next few years. AACS is working with our partner SimSkill to extend the simulation for national training. The Handling Dangerous Goods program fits well with the other training packages and courses offered by AACS. These include ‘How to Run a Convenience Store’, which uses a financially based simulation “game” to provide real life changes to the managers of the store.
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Nearly everyone buys items from convenience stores. The 15,000 convenience stores in Australia have approximately 10.7 million visits a day, every day of the year. Over 200,000 people work in these stores, either as employees or as owneroperators. AACS, in association with SimSkill, has developed an e Learning package so that both employers and employees can learn to make the most effective, productive and safe choices for themselves, their organisation and their customers
Background
Over the years the comer shop has evolved into a modem convenience store, reflecting the changes that have occurred in our society. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, convenience stores turn over approximately $16.5 billion per annum.
In some cases the comer store is now big. Many have become part of a large chain and, as with other stores, offer snacks as well as petrol, ATMs and even telecommunications and entertainment products. Each convenience store serves an average of over 700 customers per day. The focus, as always, is to offer personalised and friendly service.
Importance of training
Just as convenience stores are evolving, so too must the training that their employees undertake. According to the AACS State of Industry Report 2009, staff turnover in convenience stores runs at an average of 36 per cent and, at the highest, 56 per cent. This makes it difficult for operators to train new employees in one of the most regulated industries in Australia. Not only are there age restrictions on the sale of certain product categories, such as tobacco and lottery, there is also food service safety compliance and ‘Handling of Dangerous Goods’, which is the most onerous in terms of understanding the associated legislation and regulations that apply-particularly on a petrol forecourt. There have been a number of incidents in NSW over the past two years that have involved customers filling a petrol container without ensuring it’s earthed correcdy on the ground. A recent example caused a minor explosion and fire, which inflicted bums on both the man filling the container and his daughter who was sitting on the tailgate of the vehicle.
Difficulties in training staff
Many larger organisations with institutionalised L&D programs are able to develop and roll out training for their operational staff and franchisees. Smaller owner operators find it more difficult, so the training is often verbal and carried out on the job by a site manager or supervisor. While the managen may have the best intentions, this approach to training new employees doesn’t take into account the different learning styles or provide real-life scenarios during which employees are able to apply the skills they have learnt.
Developing the e Learning package
Training is important because if certain key measures are not followed, the safety of employees, customers and even neighbouring communities are at risk. The flammable nature of products, petrol, gas and other materials makes the surveillance of the forecourt and customers in the vicinity essential to ensuring a safe environment.
The development of this training program has been based on the belief that by experiencing a variety of workplace situations in a non-threatening simulation environment, learners will be able to make the most effective, productive and safe choices for themselves, the organisation and their customers when confronted with real workplace issues that concern the handling of dangerous fuels.
The design and development of the simulation training was overseen by a group of subject matter experts, a group of members and key HSSE Managen who form the AACS Forum on Health, Safety, Security and Environment. Their input into providing real-life incidents contributed to the realism of the program. Similarly, AACS relied on the assistance and input from NSW WorkCover staff-not just in the learning and development area but also in the audit and compliance area of the agency.
Interactive learning simulation
The simulation and software specialists, SimSkill, developed this new interactive learning package. The development of the training course was funded under the NSW WorkCover Assist Grant Program. The funding goes towards giving 250 petrol stations and convenience stores across NSW free access to the program for a 12-month period. The program allows up to ten staff members per site to access the training during this time. This access and availability is important given the aforementioned high turnover in the industry.
The course is available through the internet, and it takes around thirty minutes to complete. It consists of an overview of the training, the requirements for compliance and three work chapters.

  • Chapter 1 involves participants identifying and locating nine pieces of vital safety equipment at a petrol and convenience site. It also explain when this equipment should be used and where each item should be placed. Surprisingly, recent NSW audits found that some employees were not immediately able to find the safety equipment and, in some situations, the crucial equipment was unable to be reached as it was behind other products.
  • Chapter 2 includes the use of videos to show participants the correct way to use some of these key pieces of equipment, including fire extinguishers and blankets and spill kits. It’s important that all employees know the equipment required for the incident at hand. Using the wrong fire extinguisher, for example, can lead to greater injuries and damage.
  • Chapter 3 contains a unique learning activity: a simulation appropriately called “The Day from Hell”. Participants face a day in the life of an employee who is working at a medium-sized local convenience store that is attached to a petrol forecourt. During the simulation they are faced with some of the serious challenges that exist every day in the industry, and they are forced to make decisions based on the best course of action to take. Depending on their choices and the safety of the site, the lives of their colleagues and customers might come under jeopardy. Scenarios included in the simulation cover site checks, fuel spills, managing difficult customers, static electricity and more.

Feedback
The program has passed significant quality checks, and has been commended by many petrol station and convenience store users. Over 180 sites have already registered for the program across NSW
Many operators have commented on the value of matching the learning material and delivery mechanism to the age group of petrol and convenience staff. Younger Australians are more attuned to the games environment than text-based learning environments. The simulation utilises a graphic games approach that provides real-life situations to which the staff have to react in a controlled and timely manner to any incident or potential incident on the forecourt. The training is also designed to provide maximum retention of the behaviours required to maintain a safe work environment.
This visual learning is also crucial when many of the employees are either new entrants to the workforce (so young) or migrant workers. Many of the latter may not have English as a first language, so the ability to respond to the visual cues is important in ensuring the retention of the learning contained in the simulation program.
Anna Winter is a small owner-operator of two petrol stations. She was looking for ways to train her staff to ensure compliance with NSW Regulations. As an independent operator, Anna couldn’t afford to develop extensive training programs for her staff so she jumped at the opportunity to utilise the AACS simulation e Learning program. She ensured that all of her 25 staff undertook the training and were eligible to receive their completion certificate.
One of the most important factors I have found is that it has given my staff more knowledge, which in turn has made both of my sites safer for customers and the environment. This confidence in staff is crucial when operating two 24-hour sites. I also found that the virtual reality approach was a more effective teaching tool than a reading test for some of my employees.”
The uptake of the program has not been limited to small operators as some of the larger national petrol and convenience organisations have made the simulation training available to their staff. The realism of the simulation helps to reinforce the importance of all employees understanding the reason for the intensive compliance in this sector.
Currently, the simulation training is specific to the NSW WorkCover legislation and regulations. AACS, however, is keen to develop the program to meet National Standards as the harmonised OH&S are agreed upon across all states and territories over the next few years. AACS is working with our partner SimSkill to extend the simulation for national training. The Handling Dangerous Goods program fits well with the other training packages and courses offered by AACS. These include ‘How to Run a Convenience Store’, which uses a financially based simulation “game” to provide real life changes to the managers of the store.
AACS also provides compliance training related to age verification and legislation changes that impact the convenience store sector. Keeping up to date is an onerous task for small business in Australia, and the association is committed to helping them maintain compliance and run a sustainable business operation.

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