When Safety Training Misses the Mark

Dan Hannan, CSP

Sitting through bad safety training is brutal. But it can be a double whammy for an employer who pays for a bad safety training, while paying employees to attend, and pushing pause on revenue generating work. OSHA’s compliance directive is simple. OSHA says workers must be properly task-trained prior to assignment. “Properly trained” infers the development of skill and knowledge to safely perform the work. This does not mean the training has to be long, boring, or ineffective. There are a number of options to understand and consider when identifying the right type of training to best meet your needs.

Instructor-led vs. Online:  In recent years online training and education has surged.  With it’s low cost and on-demand access, many have come to prefer it.  Quizzes demonstrate an understanding of online content and a back-end learning management system (LMS) allows for tight tracking of training.  Instructor-led advantages include the ability to get answers in real-time and of course the dynamics of group participation and learning.  Due diligence is required to vet for-hire trainers to ensure they hit the mark with the audience and are quality instructors.

Content:  Aside from when specific topics must be covered to satisfy regulations, the needs of the learner (audience) should drive the make-up of the content.  Delivered information needs to be relative or have an application in order for it to hold the learner’s attention and be retained and applied.

Bite-size learning:  The mind can only absorb what the butt can endure!  This is true whether online or in a classroom.  Good training should be mindful of the learner’s ability to stay focused and keep blocks of learning to 45 minutes or less.  Breaks allow for the mind to relax and think about the information provided.  Keep learning objectives simple and manageable—no more than 3-5 in a 45-minute session.

Learning styles:  Young and old learn differently, use different lingo, and have varying tolerances for risk.  This makes the delivery of training challenging.  Know the make-up of the audience and understand that learning differences occur with age, sex, work environment dynamics, etc.

Hands-on:  Theory-to-practice produces one of the strongest learning bonds.  For instance, take 30 minutes to cover the principles of using a body harness followed by putting the learner through the paces of inspecting it and then putting it on.  Scenario-based or roll-playing activities provide a great learning dynamic and is ideally suited for small work-groups.

Story-telling:  Safety is about keeping people out of harm’s way and related stories often holds people’s attention.  Relatable stories with both good and bad outcomes help workers connect through empathy.

Engagement:  Instructor styles may vary but those that deliver their content with some entertainment and engagement achieve greater rates of recalled information.  Computer gaming software and polling hardware (“clickers”) help make content stick.  Game activities take the edge off serious safety topics and can be a nice reprieve from talking about fatal injuries to prove a point.

To learn more about safety training best practices, or to request information about instructor led safety training for your staff,  contact Dan.Hannan@HilmersonServices.com