Safety: Not a Lesson to Learn the Hard Way

Happy young professionals in training classroom

Have you ever sat through a death-by-PowerPoint safety training session and wondered, why do I have to be here?  What did I just learn anyway?  Safety training can be one of the most important things that we can do to create a safer workplace; however, it is important to remember how adults learn and engage.    

Safety training can be difficult for adult learners to sit through and retain the intended message.  After all, do you enjoy hearing and seeing the same thing repeatedly presented in the same way? It is important to engage the students during training and have them participate and work through a safety training concept themselves to gain the most benefit.

Teaching a group of professional people, a safety topic that they may have heard a thousand times can be difficult, especially because the trainees typically know their jobs better than anyone else.  Finding ways to engage the group in a discussion through a game or through developing their own ideas and questions can lead to improved retention. Since this is a topic that could save someone from enduring a disabling injury or even losing their life, it is worth being creative to ensure they understand. 

Games are one method to use for engaging the trainees.  Some games include Jeopardy, Family Feud, and Hollywood Squares to name a few.  The Center for Teaching Excellence at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) has developed a few sample game templates that can be useful in starting to develop your interactive safety training. 

Additionally, having your group analyze hazards can be another way to gain their interest and help cognitive retention and brain engagement.  WorkSafe BC has created some fun, “What’s wrong with this photo” challenges that can be especially engaging and topically focused.  The challenges allow the students to select the hazards they are observing while also providing the reasoning behind their observation.    

Here is a simple safety training idea that offers a hands-on experience to the attendees and can really make an important point. Looking around the kitchen, do you think you can find 10 different white powders to help improve your Chemical Safety Hazard Communication Training?  Do you think it is difficult to determine which powder is granulated sugar or salt, or to compare flour, baking soda, baking powder, and confectioners’ sugar? Although we might think it would be easy to identify one powder from another, it can be quite difficult when in unlabeled containers.  Most students attempt to taste or smell the powders.  The powders should be placed in permanent sealed containers to emphasize the importance of not identifying chemicals in those ways.  Trying to determine which product is in the container by only by sight is very challenging.  It forces them to think and engage and reminds them why labeling is so important in the workplace to prevent an accidental chemical consumption or misuse.  

A successful safety training session is one in which the attendees received relevant information and can explain how they apply it to their work environment. Don’t we all want the same results?  The goal is to have an engaged workforce that understands how to apply what they have learned to their work environment.  Is your safety training effective? If not, consider changing your approach as necessary to ensure the learning is focused on the experiential concepts of engagement.

To learn more about safety training, check out the requirements and programs provided by OSHA, and MEMIC policyholders can access our safety training resources within the Safety Director.