Campbell Institute introduces research on visual literacy

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The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council is embarking on a multi-year research project to study the effects of visual literacy training on improving hazard awareness and recognition in the workplace, the organization announced Sept. 26.

The Toledo Museum of Art is partnering with the institute on the project.

Safety professionals should look at their workplaces the way a piece of artwork would be viewed: deeply, critically and completely, according to the Campbell Institute and TMA. If workers “see” an environment in its totality, they should be able to spot all potential hazards and then take corrective actions to mitigate them before an incident occurs.

“Our world is becoming increasingly visual, but when we look at something, how much are we really seeing?” John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute and environmental, health, safety and sustainability at NSC, said in a press release. “Just like learning to read, it is beneficial to train our minds to better ‘see’ the world so we are able to overcome our visual biases. The more hazards we can proactively identify, the safer we’ll be.”

TMA directors will develop and provide visual literacy training for each of the participating organizations – AES, Cummins, Owens Corning and USG. Campbell Institute researchers then will determine the effectiveness and outcomes of the training.

The stages of the research include:

  • Review the companies’ hazard identification programs and processes.
  • Set baselines for hazard identification/visual literacy “competency” with help from TMA.
  • Monitor training/intervention programs and then assess key learning/retention, as well as hazard identification activities, over the next year.

“At TMA, we believe visual literacy provides an essential skill set for navigating the visual world,” Mike Deetsch, Emma Leah Bippus director of education and engagement at TMA, said in a press release. “Through exercises and activities using great works of art from the TMA collection, we can systematize a way of looking at and understanding the environment around us.”