Typically, safety managers conduct safety training for all employees. However, in this time of lean staffing for construction projects, this method of training is not always feasible. There are too few safety managers and too many construction projects. Today, safety managers frequently must utilize other personnel — typically site safety coordinators/supervisors — to conduct required safety training.

When designating personnel to conduct safety training, it is important to ensure that these trainers understand how adults learn and know the most effective training methods. A “Train-the-Trainer” course may be necessary.

The traditional method of stand-up lecturing is not effective for reaching adults. To train adults, training must be interactive, participative and directly related to their job. Adults need to be involved in the learning process.

There is an old adage: “Tell me, I’ll forget; Show me, I’ll remember; Involve me, I’ll understand.” Studies have shown that employees forget 80 percent of what they have been told within 24 hours after the training, but retain 90 percent if there is hands-on involvement.

Changing behaviors
What motivates people to learn? Most people think of external motivators, like money, promotion, recognition, peer pressure, etc. However, internal motivators, such as sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, are typically stronger.

The goal of construction safety training is to change a person’s behavior on the job site. A trainer can only assist a participant in changing their behavior. It is the trainer’s responsibility to teach. It is the participant’s responsibility to learn. Keep in mind that after training, job site/behavior observations and coaching reinforce the concepts taught and help solidify the desired changed behavior.

When selecting a person to help conduct safety training, think back to a memorable training session you attended and the qualities the trainer possessed. A good trainer must exhibit enthusiasm, be creative in their approach to training, have a willingness to work with people, have a desire to help people learn, and be competent in the subject matter. The person selected must possess or learn these qualities.

A trainer’s ability to hold the interest of a group depends on how well they use their voice, eyes, hands, face and body. A good trainer asks open-ended questions to maintain audience involvement. Trainers must always be generating questions in the minds of their class participants.

A well-run construction project requires extensive pre-planning; each step of the project must be thought through before execution. Likewise, a well-run training session requires a well-thought-out training plan. The better the training plan, the better the training.

Typically, there are three basic parts to a training plan: the introduction, body and conclusion. The purpose of these three parts is:

1. Introduction: “Tell ’em what you’re gonna’ tell ’em.”
2. Body: “Tell ’em.”
3. Conclusion: “Tell ’em what you told ’em.”

Repetition is the key to adult learning. A more formalized explanation of the three sections is:

Introduction:
  • Opening statement/objective
  • State the main points (three to five)
  • Behavior/performance objectives
  • Body: (repeat for each of the three to five main points)
  • State a main point
  • Provide information
  • Provide example/demonstration
  • Conclusion:
  • Summarize the main points
  • Review difficult points
  • Repeat behavior/performance objectives
  • Closing statement
  • Structure your sessions
    When trainers take the time to structure their safety training sessions into this format, it requires the trainer to condense the training into understandable blocks of information and review very specifically the behavior/performance that is desired. As a result, the safety training is clear, concise and much more effective.

    Planning and creativity in the training approach are essential to helping workers change their behavior because they will remember the information presented in the training session if they hear, see and do.

    Learning environment is also important. The training area or room used must be comfortable with limited distractions. Limit class sizes so there is sufficient seating for everyone. Arrange the classroom so everyone can see the trainer, and in particular the demonstrations or audio visual materials used.

    Be sure to engage the sense of sight when training. If an LCD (liquid crystal display) or PowerPoint projector is not available, use a flip chart/white board, or provide handouts to personnel. Conduct demonstrations showing personnel the desired behavior you want them to follow. Utilizing digital pictures from the job site can help people learn because they can see the behavior desired in the context of their actual work area.

    New trainers need to practice developing training plans, using AV (audio visual) materials, and conducting training. Critique their training style in a positive coaching way. Watch the use of their voice, eyes, hands, face and body. Review their training plan outline and make suggestions for improvements where appropriate. Incorporate additional exercises and demonstrations into their sessions. Make certain the AV materials they use are clear, effective, applicable and appropriate for the topic. The more experience they have in developing and delivering quality training sessions, the more comfortable the trainer will be.

    Follow-up and evaluate
    After a safety training session is complete, follow-up and evaluate personnel behavior changes. This can be done by asking the participant what they learned, or letting them show you, through observations or repetition of the training material. This helps reinforce the points covered in the training sessions and ensures proper understanding of what was taught. For example, for heat stress training, observe (or ask) what they did to modify their work schedule to account for heat, observe fluids intake, and ask what signs and symptoms they look for in co-workers to ensure they are not suffering from heat stress.

    Construction site trainers must understand it takes time and preparation to develop a well-planned safety meeting. Trainers must be creative in their approaches and include more demonstrations and examples that involve personnel.