Is ‘Hands-On’ Safety Training Necessary?

Today our Safety Training Tips Editor explains why it is important to take your safety training sessions beyond lectures and written materials.

Learning research shows that after a few days most people only remember about 10 percent of what they read, maybe 20 percent of what they hear, and perhaps 30 percent of what they see. Even seeing and hearing combined might yield only a 50 percent retention rate.

That means that written training materials, lectures, safety videos, and even demonstrations will take you only so far. To get up to 70, 80, or 90 percent retention, you have to provide hands-on training as well. Learning by doing is the best way to ensure that employees will remember safety training and use what they learned when they return to their jobs.

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Here’s how to do it.

To be effective, hands-on training must include the following steps:

Demonstrate. Show trainees how to perform the procedure, technique, or task.

Have trainees describe what you did. Ask them to tell you in their own words what they’ve just seen. The same research that says people retain most of what they do also says that talking about information they hear and see helps them remember it.

Ask and answer questions. Ask trainees questions about your demonstration to make sure they’ve understood the key points. Then answer any questions they have about how it’s done.

Have trainees perform with guidance. Give each trainee the chance to actually perform the procedure, technique, or task under your watchful eye (or under the guidance of an experienced employee training assistant).
Provide feedback. Praise trainees for successful performance. Correct errors, and make sure trainees who make mistakes understand what they did wrong and how to do it right.

Give trainees the chance to practice. Once you’re convinced that trainees have the right idea, give them the opportunity to practice under supervision to make sure they’ve got it down perfectly.

Monitor to make sure learning is effective. The final step is to follow up on the job and make sure that trainees have learned everything they need to know and are continuing to perform the procedure, technique, or task properly.

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Combine techniques for best results. Often, the best training results are achieved with blended learning, which combines a variety of training techniques. For example, you could preface hands-on training with a lecture/discussion about the procedure, technique, or task you are trying to teach. Or you could give a quick 5-minute introduction to the topic, show a video, and follow up with hands-on training.

Why It Matters…

• Most adults learn and remember what they’ve learned best when they have a chance to learn by doing.
• Hands-on training is effective whenever employees need to learn how to perform a procedure, technique, or task. 
• Hands-on learning is immediately transferable to the job.
• Hands-on training allows you to determine right away if a trainee has learned a new skill.


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