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A dynamic approach to safety training

March 1, 2012

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We feel our safety training for hourly, supervisors and management is stagnant, with boring regulation and observation program training. How do we develop a dynamic approach that gives better results than counting people in attendance?

Responding is Mike Williamsen, Ph.D., senior safety consultant, Caterpillar Safety Services, Peoria, IL.

Answer: Safety training is often concentrated on the “what,” with little focused on the “who,” “why” or “how.” Below you will find some solutions to safety training shortfalls that I hope will help make your safety training both more dynamic and effective.

  • Make up a safety training plan for each job type, including those in management and supervision. If this goes to a “one size fits all” training, watch out; the executive group will rebel at the waste of time you are forcing on them. For executives, it is helpful to provide an overview of the regulations and a little more if they are in a line function. After this “safety light” introduction, the focus is on what it takes to develop a zero-incident safety culture at the line level and throughout the organization. The executives usually have had little or no background in safety reality, only regulations. This is your chance to get them on board and engaged in supporting a culture that delivers more than a boring regulation and observation approach will ever do.
  • Engage those who have to do the job safely by having them conduct the training of the “who,” “what” and “how.” Subject matter experts who are respected in the workforce can easily be trained on how to be a good teacher. They can be turned loose with some occasional coaching, and be recognized in some way (perhaps a company jacket or appreciation lunches with the other trainers or consultants). This helps increase involvement and engagement.
  • Make the operations department responsible for doing safety training in their organization. They must do their part to have a “culture of correct.” The safety department acts as a resource; the responsible department (i.e., operations department) does the hands-on work and the hands-on training. This makes the people on the front line the subject matter experts in safety excellence training, and this is where it belongs.
  • Train your new hourly, supervision and management trainers on how to effectively present and get audience participation. Consultants can drop in on presentations occasionally and provide verbal support and recognition in front of the students.
    Do training beyond safety and observation to develop professionally capable hourly, supervision and management leadership. This material should include:
    • How to be communication interactive
    • How to lead continuous improvement initiatives in safety and solve your own problems
    • How to be an effective presenter
  • Give management accountability that includes some safety training and/or responsibility to introduce safety training. In doing so, they automatically reinforce the importance of a culture of correct in the “who,” “what,” “when,” “how” and the engagement of everyone within the organization.
  • Develop an interactive culture-of-correct video that delivers a message on how important safety truly is. This video should have on-screen presence of hourly, supervision and management personnel. It also should have scripted interaction breaks so that during this training the workgroup stops and discusses the material.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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