Speaker Spotlight

Speaker Spotlight: Make your safety training ‘awesome!’

Speaker Spotlight: Regina McMichael

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every year, the National Safety Council Congress & Expo features some of the top thought-leaders and motivators in the occupational safety and health community. Safety+Health has invited the most highly rated presenters to contribute to this monthly column. For more on this year’s event, visit congress.nsc.org.

If you were to survey a sample of workers, asking them to complete the following sentence, “Safety training is …,” what would they say?

Would they shout out “Awesome!” at the top of their lungs? Probably not.

Sadly, workers often say it’s boring, painful, the worst or just plain awful.

I’ve asked a lot of people to share their opinion of safety training, and the answer I get the most is that safety training is dreadful. But why? Safety training doesn’t have to have such a bad reputation, but it does. The great news is that the industry can change that perception with some creativity and commitment to improving ourselves as safety and health trainers.

What will it take?

Awesome safety training isn’t easy, but safety, in general, isn’t easy either. So, maybe you’re up for this challenge! The commitment to design, develop and deliver great training has to come from your commitment to the people you’re trying to teach. Your learners are your responsibility.

Your first step to awesome training is to acknowledge that boring lectures, training as punishment for incidents or using whatever you can find on the internet to check off the safety training box just isn’t good enough. If we want to keep our learners engaged so they actually work safer after training is completed, we must make a commitment to change.

Consider the reality that if we train our learners, but they don’t really learn anything, we actually could be hurting them. No, not with Death by PowerPoint, but we could cause harm by sending them back to the job without the safety knowledge, skill or behavior they need to stay safe.

Some first steps

Assuming you’re training the right people for the right reason, the next step is to design and develop your training to achieve your goal of safer behavior or increased safety knowledge or skill. This is going to take some work, especially as you continue to grow your skills as a trainer.

Think about what the learners really need to know to be safe. I beg you, don’t open PowerPoint at this moment. Instead, think about the program. What skills or knowledge do they need to ensure they don’t get hurt?

Consider ladder training – something almost all of us have to do in our careers at some point. Do the workers really need ladder awareness training after a ladder incident? Or are we just comfortable with doing it that way because we always have? Or, worse yet, because your boss said to retrain them?

If retraining is needed, look at past losses and current work observations, and really focus the materials on the change in behavior needed to reduce risk. But don’t show them the same PowerPoint from previous training sessions. If it didn’t work the first time, why would it work the second time?

After you determine what they really need to learn to change their behavior and enhance their knowledge or skill, create a program that they’ll remember and can implement on the job. Design a program that isn’t just a lecture – include activities to help them learn and remember the materials.

To help make this program great, enlist others – such as a subject matter expert or one of the learners – who can help ensure your message is on the mark. Consider the following options, instead of a lecture, for your ladder safety program:

  • Demonstrate safe ladder use with a ladder that’s used, and can be accessed, on the job.
  • Have workers show you how to use the ladder safely, then offer modifications if necessary.
  • Review a ladder incident and have learners develop safe procedures to ensure similar incidents don’t occur.
  • Conduct a ladder hazard hunt and have learners determine how to repair or replace any damaged ladders.

Is there more you can do? Absolutely. Safety training can grow to “Awesome!” with your continued creativity and growth as a trainer. Do a little research on great training and see what else you’re ready to do to improve the way you train your workforce to be safe.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Regina McMichael, CSP, CET, is president of The Learning Factory Inc. She also is the author of, and known as, “The Safety Training Ninja.” She is a leading motivational safety speaker and a director on the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. You can reach her at [email protected].



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