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On Research: Making safety training ‘stickier’

Journal of Safety Research contributors talk about their work

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What’s your study about?

There’s a lot of evidence that suggests safety training can sometimes be ineffective, because people who get hurt at work are obviously trained and have had an induction. The core problem is, why didn’t the safety training stick? What are some of the design factors, delivery factors and characteristics of the employees themselves that might prohibit or reduce the amount of application of that training back in the workplace?

What drove your interest in studying this topic?

I became enthused by the practicality of the work. When we think about preventing injuries and illnesses at work, training is one tool in our toolkit as practitioners that can really make a difference. Safety training is a bit special, and if we can get it right, then we can actually make a difference to the lives of people who are out there working every day in high-risk settings.

What are the biggest takeaways from the study?

The audience for the paper is your safety practitioner or your training and development manager. The biggest high-level takeaway is that … we can apply some of our existing concepts around good training, development and design, but there’s also some nuance things we need to think about.

Did anything about the results surprise you?

I think it’s the role of emotions in safety training. We often think that negative emotions such as fear or frustration or hesitation are actually a bad thing. But we know from safety science that having a bit of chronic unease or fear about a hazard is actually a helpful self-protective mechanism that can generate some effective safety behaviors.

How could the study findings impact workers?

It’s for those architects of training programs to understand, “Which parts do I emphasize? How do I approach this training more strategically?” Instead of PowerPoint slides, what can you do ahead of time to make sure they’re structured well, have good interactivity and really bring the participant on a journey, rather than just downloading information into them?

What industries do you think would be most impacted?

For the more mature industries, such as mining or oil and gas, where they do a ton of training, it might be relevant to them to sort of spice it up. For less mature industries where safety training is not so established – whether it’s small to medium-sized industries such as hospitality – they can start to get it right from the beginning rather than experiment.

Will there be follow-up research?

I just finished a paper that applied this context in another model. It is on mental health interventions and reducing mental health stigma in the workplace.

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