A plethora of online videos about safety topics are available to safety professionals, but it is difficult to pick the best. Although there is no single “magic theory” to train adults, criteria from a variety of fields can be applied to online safety training videos.

Make a quick connectionDevelopmental educators teach that humans choose to gain knowledge that they feel has relevance to them, and that the decision is made quickly. A video that provides reasons for a trainee to pay attention to the subject during the introduction will improve their motivation to listen and learn.

News stories used in safety training often use introductions with dramatic scenes of safety failures. However, the desired shock factor among trainees will fade if they are repeatedly exposed to tragedy.

A method to help sustain emotional punch is the use of eyewitness interviews. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) uses interviews in the video “Faces of Black Lung,” in which two minors explain the effects of the disease on their lives (NIOSH, 2008). Connecting the tragedy of safety failure to actual people and situations increases the magnitude of emotional response and makes a stronger impact.

Documentaries also seem personal, but can fail to make an emotional connection. A case in point is the NIOSH documentary about Alice Hamilton. During the crucial introduction, the video is too broad about Ms. Hamilton’s contributions, and no information is provided that the watcher can relate to personal knowledge or experiences (NIOSH, 1988).

While previewing an instructional video, it is important for the safety professional to pretend to have no knowledge of the subject at hand, watch the first two minutes of the video, and then ask themselves why they think this topic is important. Otherwise, they should show a different video on the same topic, add their own introduction, or only show important parts of the video that directly correspond with the lesson.

Tie new information to oldBoth developmental educators and educational psychologists agree that linking previous experience new information will add importance and improve knowledge retrieval (Conner, 2005) (Smith, 1998). Educational Psychologists who specialize in cognitive ageing recommend this method for elderly learners to improve long-term retention (Van Gerven, 2006).

In the CBS News story about the Crane Collapse in New York City on May 30, 2008, the format of a news program is familiar, so the viewer does not have to guess how information will be presented. At the time the video was made, most people working in the fields of construction and safety knew about the housing boom and equipment shortages. The general public had knowledge about inspectors and inspections. The video built on existing knowledge to explain the problem in New York and efforts to prevent future crane failures (CBS News, 2008).

Reduce distractersTo help the viewer identify with the video, the people giving instruction should accurately portray the general population of trainees in gender, culture, and economic status. The video should be current to decrease visual disturbances such as old hairstyles or clothing. Production values are also important, as bad lighting, static, or background noises can also distract attention.

Examining two videos gives clear evidence of the power of distracters. The video “It Only Takes a Second” has emotional impact, but the badly contrived acting, the dated appearance and the poor production quality can distract viewers (Federated Mutual Insurance Company, 1995). In comparison, the in-flight safety video produced by Delta Air Lines uses an actual flight attendant, Katherine Lee. Production quality is excellent and the actors are attractive and contemporary in appearance (Delta Airlines, 2008). Developmental educators and gerontologists are concerned with reducing distractions to improve the encoding of information (Van Gerven 2006). The CSB Safety Video “Half an Hour to Tragedy” is an example of simplifying the portrayal of situations by using non-complex computer-generated video. External distracters present in an actual workplace environment are eliminated, making it easier to focus on important details (CSB, 2007).

Explain the structureDevelopmental educators and educational psychologists agree that the videos should describe the structure of the instruction (Conner, 2005). According to safety professionals, dividing the instruction into distinct steps assists workers’ memory (Burke, 2006). In the video “A Stitch in Time,” the narrator explains how the video is structured: “. . . we’ll show you some problems to look for, how to look for them, and what to do when you find them” (Georgia Tech, 2007). If the video does not provide an overview, the lesson should be outlined by safety professionals.

Use exemplarsA seeming exception to active learning’s advantage is the use of what gerontologists call “worked examples.” Studies have consistently proven that “worked examples” are a superior teaching technique, especially for older learners (Van Gerven, 2006). Giving solutions up front allows trainees to focus on the skills and processes required (which creates activity), instead of fixating on solving a single problem. To use worked examples, safety professionals should look for case studies where problems are identified quickly, and solutions are clearly revealed. In the video, “Half an Hour to Tragedy,” the procedure for testing the pressure is revealed in a step-by-step method with computer graphics. Immediately after explanation, the video uses similar graphics to plainly show how the apprentice did not understand the safety device, and the consequence of the subsequent actions led to injuries and deaths (CSB, 2007). Educational psychologists refer to worked examples as exemplars (real or contrived circumstances that demonstrate how to apply newly learned skills or concepts), and researchers have proven that students taught with video exemplars have better long-term retention than those taught with traditional techniques.[1]

Use multiple learning stylesDevelopmental educators emphasize using multiple learning styles. Video is most effective for auditory and visual learners. News-style videos, such as “U.S. Faces Deadly Cranes,” use attention-getting pictures and minimal text (CBS, 2007). Videos of text presentations with voice-overs are distracting for the viewer, especially older viewers, and should be avoided. Instead, safety professionals should use printed text to reinforce the video with the addition of posters, hand-outs, reflective writing and quizzes on the same topic.

One of the learning styles is kinesthetic learning, in which a person learns by practicing an action. Educational psychologists have a similar concept called self-instruction (Smith, 1998) and safety professionals speak about engaging methods of training. These fields have concluded through research that learning techniques which involve direct trainee participation are more effective than passive learning techniques such as lectures and demonstrations.

Video training can be used concurrently with hands-on training. For example, videos that explain the use of personal protective equipment provide opportunities to combine video instruction with physical training.

Consider assessment and goalsWhen using any type of multimedia, educational technologists stress the need to match the tool with the goal of the instruction. The videos chosen should directly reflect the goals to be accomplished and the method of assessing goal achievement. Videos may have additional pre-prepared materials, and the relevance of these resources must also be measured.

CriteriaBy examining various disciplines’ practices concerning adult education, ideas can be adopted to evaluate online videos. Using these criteria, safety professionals will be able to choose appropriate online videos.

Dawn Fry recently graduated the University of Central Missouri with an Education Specialist degree in occupational and technology education. For three years, she was an instructor in the field of developmental education at the University of Central Missouri, and she is currently a records clerk for SI International.

Dr. Georgi Popov is an Assistant Professor of Safety Sciences at the University of Central Missouri. He is a past president of the Mid-America Local Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).


Adrian, B., Zollman, D., & Stevens, S. (2006, February 14). Pathway: Using a state-of-the-art digital video database for research and development in teacher education. AIP Conference Proceedings, 818(1), 15-18. Retrieved July 10, 2008, doi: 10.1063/1.2177012. CBS News. (2008). U.S. faces deadly cranes. [video] New York. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4142615n on November 18, 2008. Conner, M. L. 2005. Andragogy and pedagogy.Ageless Learner, 1997-2004. Retrieved from http://agelesslearner.com/intros/andragogy.html on July 10, 2008. Delta Air Lines. (2008). Safety first [video] United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/deltaairlines on November 25, 2008. Federal Mutual Insurance Company. (1995). It only takes a second. [video] United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= 6srFWdsovio&feature= on November 18, 2008. Georgia Tech Research Corporation. (2007). A stitch in time: a supervisor’s video guide to ergonomics [video]. Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved from http:// www.oshainfo.gatech.edu/video/stitch.html on November 25, 2008. Merrill, M. (2007, Fall). A task-centered instructional strategy. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(1), 5-22. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from Academic Search Complete database. Moreno, R. (2006, April). Learning in high-tech and multimedia environments. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(2), 63-67. Retrieved July 10, 2008, doi: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2006.00408.x. Moreno, R. & Valdez, A. (2007, February). Immediate and delayed effects of using a classroom case exemplar in teacher education: the role of presentation format. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(1), 194-206. Retrieved July 10, 2008, doi 10.1037/0022-0663.99.2.194. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (1988). Alice Hamilton. [video] United States of America. Retrieved from http:// video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2748096153842865330&q=niosh& ei=dx6HSMr9CImS4wKujoGSCA&hl=en on November 18, 2007. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2008). Faces of black lung. [video] United States of America. Retrieved from http://video.cdc.gov/ramgen/ niosh-video/facesblacklung.rm on November 25, 2008. Smith, M Cecil. (1998). Adult educational psychology: the interface between adult learning, development, and education. Unpublished manuscript.

U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). (2007) Half an hour to tragedy. [video] United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=JzdnUZReoLM on November 18, 2008.

Van Gerven, P., Pass, F., & Tabbers, H. (2006, June). Cognative aging and computer-based instructional design: where do we go from here? Educational Psychology Review, 18 (2), 141-157. Retrieved July 10, 2008, doi: 10.100/s10648-006-9005-4. [1] In a recent study by Moreno and Valdez (published in the Journal of Educational Psychology), they worked with three groups of subjects. The first group learned the lesson, the second group learned the lesson with a video exemplar, and the third group learned the lesson with a written case narrative. They repeated this experiment to confirm their results. In the first part of the study, both the video and the narrative groups had good retention of the exemplar when tested immediately after viewing or reading, but the video group retained more information about the exemplar when tested four weeks later. In the second part of the study, Moreno and Valdez found that their video watching group was the best at answering questions in ways modeled by the exemplar. In a safety situation, both immediate learning of the subject information, and retention of examples of modeled behaviors can be critical.