Required safety training is always going to be a part of a safety person's responsibilities. Don't fall into the rut of making it boring and a barrier to all involved. Take the initiative and make it effective using good training design and techniques.

Here are common barriers to effective training:

  • Boredom: Refresher training on subjects such as earplugs, respirators, and general personal protective equipment is very difficult to make interesting. Many topics need to be repeated each year. You can just imagine how hard it is to make noise exposure training interesting year after year.
  • Vague requirements: What training is actually required? Regulations are vague in some areas, using statements such as: "All personnel must attend regularly scheduled training." What is "regularly?" Or "Employees will be familiar with rules and regulations related to hazardous chemicals." What does "familiar" mean?
  • Skills: Just because a person has the knowledge of the subject doesn't make him a good instructor.
  • Attitudes: When workers are forced to attend training, especially on their off time, you'll meet resistance. Although management knows that the training is required, they still resent the time it takes.
  • Going overboard: In one case in my company, we found ourselves providing detailed training on self-contained breathing apparatus when employees were only required to be trained on a face mask respirator. We also occasionally tried to find filler material to fit the four- or eight-hour segments.
  • Resources: During the last quarter of each year we had every person in industrial hygiene and safety spending a large part of their time doing training.

    Keys to succeeding

    Here are five keys to make your job easier and still meet required safety training objectives:

    1. Utilize people with good training skills. Training programs are successes or failures depending on the talent of the people designing and implementing the courses.

    2. A subject matter expert with poor presentation skills won't get the job done. Don't be fooled into thinking that anyone who is the subject matter expert can design and present the class. Poor instruction can do more harm than good. Students fail to get the correct information and can resent the topic if it is presented poorly.

    3. Safety training has to be developed. Someone is needed who can look through training requirements and translate them into learning objectives. This is a time when the subject matter expert and a trainer need to work together. When the objectives are reviewed, you can identify the method of instruction. There are many ways to share the information, and a good instructor will identify a number of methods. After you have the objectives and methods of instruction you can arrange the topics into an agenda and set a time frame.

    4. Use the subject matter expert and the trainer as a team. A good trainer can design teaching methods that fit the subject matter expert. For example, a safety person who might have a hard time doing a presentation in front of a classroom may do an excellent job of presenting hands-on examples of particular equipment.

    5. Use safety meetings as safety training sessions. This can eliminate the need for employees to attend formal classes. Prepare training packages on specific items that can be provided to supervisors as meeting topics. Most work teams are open to resources for their safety meetings.

    Bob Brown is owner of the consulting firm, Blue Collar Safety, and can be reached at (281) 480-1076.