Once upon a time I was given a job to train employees on safety issues. Well, I did my homework, studied the regulations, scheduled training, and completed my tasks. Unfortunately, it came off with all the enthusiasm of a bad high school class. Retention was probably null. The first year training was completed, but ineffective.

Second year training rolled around and I approached it from a more creative angle. First lockout/tagout came up. I started with the basic videos, but added a hands-on training section. And I decided all upper management should attend. This tends to keep attention on the training - ever try to sleep in front of your boss?

At the end of our video I chose one manager to lock out one of our pieces of equipment. First we talked about the danger of compressed gas with this machine. I told employees that we usually bleed the lines of all compressed gas before we work on the machine, but for training purposes we won't. Then we walked through all the devices, did the lockout properly, and removed it.

I got creative with hazard communication training, too. Used the same old videos, but I created a mock material safety data sheet for sodas and coffees. Then before the training began, I bought one person in my class a soda or coffee. After the video, I placed a hazard warning label on their can or cup, and referred to the MSDS created for that product. Employees were asked to read the first-aid requirements and other various areas to get the full grasp of an MSDS. This went over well.

Learning as you go

Here are a few things I learned to make training more effective:

  • Include hands-on training - most adults learn from actually doing the task.
  • Get upper management involved - most employees will stay alert and engaged with their bosses in the same room.
  • Put humor into your safety training - a lighter twist on a serious matter.
  • Have fun, but never forget the importance of what you're doing in the classroom.
  • Know your audience, and how they will react to issues and actions.
  • Distribute handout sheets at the end of your training session to avoid distractions.
  • Let employees know up-front if a test is coming following training - this is another way to keep their attention.
  • Present your outline for training at the start of class so employees will know your agenda and be able to keep track of discussion points.
  • Use examples from other industries and from similar procedures to help make the training real.
  • Get employees involved in the discussions ("Has anyone seen someone get hurt because of¿").
  • Know your topics, but don't be afraid to say that you don't know an answer. Just say you'll find out the answer and get back with them as soon as you can. This lets employees know that you are still learning and willing to go out of your way to show the importance of safety.
  • Wait a few weeks after your training class and then ask employees about information you presented. Their answers will tell you something about how effective your training was, and what might need to be changed the next time around.

There is no sure-fire way to get everyone on board with training and learning. But I hope these few examples can help your facility become safer.