This post was originally featured on the Convergence Training Blog.
We’re all in favor of safety training.
But even better, we’re in favor of effective safety training. Safety training that employees learn from. Safety training that causes them to perform more safe actions at work and fewer (or better — no) unsafe actions. Safety training that drives down our number of accidents, injuries, illnesses, near-misses and property damage. Maybe all the way to zero.
That’s the kind of effective safety training we’re all in favor of.
But effective safety training doesn’t just happen. It comes from a focused, concerted effort that involves lots of know-how and planning. In this article, we’re going to look at some things you can do to make your safety training more effective and, as a result, make your workplace safer.
Tips for Effective Safety Training
Below are some tips you can use to make your safety training more effective. If you follow these tips, you’ll definitely be heading in the right direction.
You’ll notice the first two steps aren’t directly related to safety training, but to safety in general. We think you’ll agree they’re logical starting points
1. Identify Your Hazards
The first thing you can do is inspect the workplace for hazards. Your safety training won’t be very good unless you know what hazards you’re trying to protect your workers from.
Performing a job hazard analysis (JHA) is a great way to get started. During a JHA, a team of people investigate a work area and look for hazards associated with a particular job. They’ll then work to reduce those hazards, a point we’ll get to shortly
2. Control Your Hazards
It’s good to do a JHA and identify your hazards. But it’s even better to control your hazards. If you don’t talk “Safety Manager 101,” that means to make the workplace safer by eliminating or reducing the hazards.
One great model you can use to do this is to follow what safety folks know as the hierarchy of controls. The hierarchy of controls gives you a simple pattern to use when trying to control hazards — try elimination first, substitution second, engineering controls third, work practice controls fourth and PPE fifth. Note that PPE is always a last resort and recognize that in some cases you may well use different types of controls in combination (for example, an engineering control and PPE).
3. Know Your Safety Training Regulations
It’s also a good idea to find out the safety training requirements that regulatory agencies like OSHA or MSHA place on your work site. First, because the law’s the law, and compliance with the law is a good thing. But even though compliance with the law is a good thing, two even better reasons to check those safety training regulations are (a) to make sure you’re not overlooking something the regulation may help you identify and (b) to set a “baseline minimum” for training that you can then exceed with your own training.
4. Have a Method for Your Safety Training
It’s a good idea to follow a proven, trusted method for delivering your safety training. If you haven’t heard of ANSI Z490.1, the national standard for accepted EHS training practices, now’s a good time to get familiar with it. The standard provides a step-by-step method for safety trainers like you.
5. Know Your Learning Objectives
Early in the process of designing training, you’ll want to create a set of learning objectives. Your learning objectives are the things you want your employees to do on their job as a result of your training. If you pick the right learning objectives (for example, to lock and tagout machinery before performing maintenance), you can then design your training to teach employees to perform those actions and create tests that evaluate if employees can perform those actions during training. So in short, your learning objectives are what everything else in your training supports.
6. Know Your Employees
There’s a much better chance that your employees will “get” your training and be safer workers as a result if you create training with their preferences in mind. Do they prefer classroom-style training or training in the field? Do they like to start training with some e-learning and then talk about it as a group? Are they comfortable with written material, or is that a struggle for them? What is their level of previous knowledge on the topic — and what existing knowledge can you use to make comparisons while introducing new knowledge? The more you know about your employees, the more effective your training will be.
7. Know and Acknowledge the “What’s In It For Me?” Issue
Your employees are going to pay attention to training and care about it if they know how it’s important for them. If you start by explaining how training will keep them safe in their jobs (or better yet, ask them how it’s related to their jobs), you’re off to a good start. And remember to design the training so it’s focused on how your workers actually work. Avoid simply reading off a safety regulation — that’s too abstract. Make it personal.
8. Know About Active Learning
One of those adult learning principles we talked about earlier is the importance of active learning. The idea is that people don’t learn by passively sitting and listening to a lecture. Instead, they learn when they’re being active. This can mean leading the training session themselves, actively participating in a Q&A session, sharing their thoughts and experiences, performing hands-on training and similar stuff. If you design training knowing that it’s important for the workers to be active participants, they’ll get more out of it and you’ll have a safer work place.
9. Know Your Adult Learning Principles
The “What’s in it for me?” issue and active learning are part of what learning experts call adult learning principles. Adult learning principles are things that make adults more likely to learn, as you might have guessed. If your training includes these adult learning principles, it’s going to be more effective and lead to a safer work place.
10. Know How to Write and Talk
When you write training materials, or when you’re speaking during a training session, it’s important to use the right kind of language. And for effective training, that means using a conversational tone and the kind of language workers themselves use.
11. Know About the Combined Power of Words and Pictures
We’re visual creatures —most of the information that comes to us comes from our eyes. And so it’s no surprise that training with good visuals (pictures, movies, real-life objects, etc.) can be very effective. Even better, many studies show that training that includes well-designed visuals and words together is even more effective. This is because our brains have two “processing centers,” one for images and one for words.
12. Know the Value of “Chunking”
Humans can only keep a small amount of information in our working memory — maybe only four — at any one time. If you give your workers more than that to handle, they’ll get overwhelmed and nothing will “stick.”
The solution to that is to organize your training into tiny, bite-sized “chunks.” (Yep, that’s what it’s called in learning and development.) Doing this will give your workers a better chance of retaining the information.
13. Know the Importance of Testing
Training is good, but it’s also important to test your employees to make sure they understand the important concepts and/or can demonstrate that they know how to perform job tasks safely BEFORE you send them out on the floor to work. Don’t forget to test. Without it, you’re only hoping people have learned.
14. Know How to Evaluate Your Training Effectiveness
And here’s one last thing you want to know about effective safety training. To know if it’s effective or not, you’ve got to evaluate the results — you can’t just assume it worked. Get out on the field and observe behaviors and see what workers are doing. Check your near-miss numbers and your injury/illness/incident counts. Make sure your training is having the effect you’re hoping for.
If you can get data of key performance indicators (KPIs) for safety both before and after training is held, that can be a real benefit because it allows you to compare your data.
What Are Your Tips for Effective Safety Training?
Well, those were a few tips from us, but what about you? What tips do you have to share that we didn’t mention above? Or what thoughts do you have to add? We’d love to hear what you have to say by using our comments section below!