Safety and Health Article Archive

Effective Safety Training Techniques

By David Coble, CSP

Two new employees, Bubba and Sally, need safety training. What do they need to know? What training techniques work best? What do we need to consider to provide the training? How do we know if the training was effective?

Let's analyze these questions by further asking:

--What do we consider in designing the training?
--What are the advantages and disadvantages of the types of training?
--What are my review questions?

In this article we'll go over some of the steps to take before you begin designing your training program. Let's find out how to answer these questions and put together the best training program you can.

Designing the Training

Goals and Objectives: Do we need education or training, or both? We should use a team approach to design our training to obtain a variety of input and experiences. The team will conduct a walkthrough audit to determine deficiencies and needs. We'll also review OSHA's training requirements to meet regulatory specifications.

There are two basic reasons to provide safety training:
(1) To teach someone to perform a task safely (training) and/or
(2) To increase safety awareness (education).

Which do we want?

Level of Knowledge and Skill of the Participants: Let's determine the educational and experience background of our new employees. What is their length of service in our industry? Would this be brand new or retraining for them? We'll distribute a questionnaire or pretest prior to the training to get an idea of their skill and knowledge. Maybe we can even have them take a standard aptitude test.

Time Allotted: This can turn out to be critical. Do we spread out the training over several days or weeks, or cram it into a short period? Will management let them go for a sufficient time? What about the impact on the workers who must fill in for our trainees? Do we cover key points or add details? Also, the mind can comprehend only what the rear end will endure.

Training Facility and Equipment Available: Let's use a variety of audiovisual, show-and-tell, and hands-on aids. Can we get a quiet training room away from the distractions of production? Classroom style seating encourages formality, while U-shaped seating encourages discussion and participation. Will our training be all classroom or can we get our trainees out into the facility on a field trip?

Amount of Participation By the Attendees: Would our goal be to pump information into the trainees and see if they can they participate? How about some role play, exercises, demonstrations, and even having the participants handling some of the training duties? Let's give a post-test to make our trainees determine their own deficiencies, and tell us what more they need.

Types of Training

On-the-Job by Peers - Can answer questions readily.
- Allows trainees to be productive
- Normally, sufficient training time is allowed
- Learn shortcuts that might be unsafe
- Less control over what they learn
Individualized by a Professional Trainer - Trainees are motivated because of personal attention.
- Deficiencies are identified easily and corrected at the time of training.
- Can control content.
- Requires a good trainer.
- May be expensive and labor intensive.
- A prepared schedule may not allow enough time.
Group Training on the Job - Allows students to share ideas.
- Students participate in implementing ideas.
- Trainees hear the same thing.
- Requires a good trainer.
- If teh time is limited, all trainees' questions may not get answered.
Conferences - Sharing of ideas.
- Allows brainstorming.
- Facilitator must:
- Solicit ideas
- Summarize
- Keep group on track
- Arbitrate
Lecture/Discussion - Pre-planning is possible.
- Structured
- Good for large groups.
- Only 10% retained at best
- Not enough discussion leads to frustration.
Tailgate/Toolbox - Informal
- Addresses different levels of skill and knowledge
- Includes free discussion and problem solving.
- Boosts morale.
- Limited time available.
- Distraction
- Weather
Demonstrations - Group or one-on-one.
- Allows trainees to perform the task being taught
- Done in the "ideal" setting when ideal is rare.
- Ill-prepared instructors.
Drills/Exercises - Hands on practice. - Time consuming -- costly.
- Hard to coordinate wtih others.
Video-Based - Entertaining
- Self-directed
- Individuals or groups
- Should be kept short
- Can pause for discussion or rewind
- Cost
- Lights are out - No-Doze may be needed!
Programmed Instruction - Self-paced
- Can be computerized
- Uses a workbook with tests at the end of each chapter.
- Finding explanations of materials.
- Self-iniative required.
Computer-Assisted - Cost-effective
- Self-directed
- Good for annual training
- Ensures success through testing
- Virtual environment
- Not good for all subjects
- Expensive

Review Questions

Now let's see if our training paid off and our planning was effective. We'll interview and observe new and transferred employees to determine if they are doing the job right. Let's check our documentation of the training and our training content. Using our OSHA Required Training checklist, we'll make sure we included all of the regulatory issues.

We'll give the new employees a critique sheet to get their opinions of our training. They are our best bet to help us improve. That will also tell us if our trainers are qualified. I'm going to join a trainers' professional group, attend their meetings, join in roundtables to discuss ideas, and read a professional training journal each month. You bet I'll stay informed. Bubba and Sally aren't going to be ill-prepared to do their jobs on my watch!

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