You can help ensure that you have trainees’ full attention by applying accelerated learning principles to your safety training efforts.  Accelerated learning principles can be very powerful tools — especially when you consider that safety trainers often present information that could mean the difference between life and death. It is extremely important that information presented during safety training is absorbed and retained.

Beyond tradition

Traditional safety training usually involves showing a video or flipping through PowerPoint® slides and then discussing the information as it relates to a company’s programs and policies. Safety training based on accelerated learning is much different. It is focused on the results and not the methods. Whatever learning tools work to increase and enhance learning can be called accelerated learning methods. Many safety professionals spend a good portion of their time training others. By applying accelerated learning principles, trainers can spend less time creating training programs and can help trainees learn faster and remember more. Accelerated learning principles applied to safety training can be a win-win situation for everyone. 

The major principles of accelerated learning, as explained in Dave Meier’s Accelerated Learning Handbook ©2000, can be simply stated as:

  • Complete trainee involvement
  • Dynamic creation of knowledge and applicable job skills
  • A group learning effort whereby trainees work together
  • Interactive learning instead of or in addition to lecture format

Safety training games and activities are a great way to apply accelerated learning principles. When trainees participate in a training game or activity, they actively participate in their own learning, learning from their peers, and having fun — all principles of accelerated learning.  We learn better when we learn from each other, according to research. When trainees must work in teams to complete an activity or participate in a game, peer-to-peer learning takes place. In small groups, it is difficult to sit back and do nothing; the trainee has little choice other than to be involved. When trainees work together in teams, learning can be greatly enhanced.

The fun factor

Positive emotions are very important in enhancing learning. If someone is sitting endlessly in a lecture, they probably won’t have positive emotions for very long. If someone is stressed or bored or angry, learning will be inhibited. If learning is positive, relaxed and engaging, learning will be increased. Activities can help keep the trainee engaged. If a little competition is added, a boring safety training class can suddenly become lively.

“Safety Sort” is a quick and easy example of an activity based on the principles of accelerated learning. It can be easily customized to meet your specific needs.  For a general safety training class, you first need to identify ten common hazards found in your workplace. Each of these hazards is written on an index card, in no particular order. Your trainees divide up into smaller groups (2-5 people works best) and each group is given an identical set of cards. Trainees are instructed to put the cards into order from least to most hazardous. After the groups have finished, ask each group what they found to be the most and least hazardous. A debate almost always ensues about what should be first, second and so forth. The correct answer is likely not set in stone since the cards only list a common hazard and do not provide background information that could affect how the hazard is ranked by different groups.  Spirited discussion often results between the teams trying to defend their ordering of the hazards. The value of this activity is in the discussion. When was the last time you had people arguing over safety in your facility?

Friendly competition

“Safety Sort” does not result in a “winner,” but friendly competition is a great way to increase participation.  A game called “A-Z Race” is a popular way to summarize and wrap up a training class while involving all trainees. All that is needed is a piece of paper and pen for each trainee team. Again, small groups of 3-5 work best. It is also helpful but not necessary to have a large piece of flipchart paper or a whiteboard available to display the results at the end of the exercise.

To begin, ask each team to make two columns on their paper. Down the left side of the page, the first half of the alphabet (A-M) should be written and down the side of the second column, the second half of the alphabet should be written (N-Z). Tell the class that this is a race. Each team must think of a word related to the training topic that begins with each letter of the alphabet and the first team to finish will be declared the winner. It helps if you can offer a prize to the winning team members, even if the prize is only a piece of candy, but it is not necessary.  When one team finishes, stop the game and ask the team to shout out what they wrote next to each letter. Write these words on the flipchart or whiteboard for all to see.

Teams participating in the exercise mentally go through all of the key points of the class and conduct their own review of the material.  When the winning team shares its answers with the class and the words are written on the flipchart or whiteboard, a second review takes place. Learning occurs without
participants really thinking about it. (Note: to see samples of these training materials, visit

In addition to increasing interaction and retention for the trainees, training based on games and activities can be designed in a fraction of the time it takes to design typical classes.  When you realize that people learn much more and much faster from experiences combined with feedback, you will begin to see how accelerated learning principles applied to safety can be a winning formula.