Training

Safety Training That Sticks

Employee training is both an essential feature of any workplace safety program and a constant challenge for safety professionals.

To find out more about effective safety training, BLR® talked with Jeffrey Dennis, a certified safety professional and president of Industrial Safety Solutions, Inc., a safety, environmental, and industrial hygiene consulting firm located in Birmingham, Alabama.

Technology has enhanced many aspects of safety training, says Dennis. Both external and in-house trainers use a variety of technologies with names like virtual education, Web-based training, and computer-based training. These platforms deliver training content by text, audio, streaming video, Internet, podcasts, and numerous other means.

But when it comes to live training, Dennis believes success is tied less to the sophistication of the technology and more to the trainer’s ability to reach trainees on a personal level. A challenge for many safety professionals is that they become trainers by default, without a fundamental understanding of how to teach and how adults learn. So even if the trainer is a certified safety professional, an industrial hygienist, or has other safety credentials, he or she may lack specific training know-how.

Preparation Is Key

“One of the major pitfalls people fall into is not placing enough emphasis on preparation,” says Dennis. “Adult learners want to be able to immediately relate the subject you’re talking about to their jobs and how it will help them. If you are unprepared, they will shut you out.” It’s not enough to know the content; unless you can present it effectively in a way that will appeal to different types of learners, the message won’t come across, he adds.


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According to Dennis, preparation is a three-legged stool. The first leg is identifying learning objectives. These should be specific, measurable, and timely. Learning objectives give your audience a clear idea of what they’re going to learn and how they will know they’ve learned it. He says everything that follows (discussions, group exercises, activities, case studies, etc.) must directly support the learning objectives.

The second leg to preparation is solid course content. “This is very important with adult learners. If you lose your credibility with them or can’t explain yourself, they’re going to disengage.” It’s essential to have your facts straight, as everyone in the audience will likely have a phone in hand and can easily confirm facts via the Internet.

The third leg for preparation is logistics. Everything you learned in grade school about planning ahead still applies. Get to the training location before your students arrive and check that the room is set up correctly. Make sure your computer, projector, or other equipment is working, and have a solid Plan B in mind in case your electronics fail midsession.

Additional Training Resources

If you want to become a better trainer or help your staff gain skills, Dennis suggests getting involved with the National Environmental, Safety & Health Training Association (NESHTA), (http://www.NESHTA.org), for which he currently serves as vice president.


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Other good resources include OSHA (http://www.OSHA.gov), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) (http://www.MSHA.gov), Safety.BLR.com®, and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (http://www.BCSP.org), which offers the Certified Environmental, Safety, and Health Trainer program.