Training and education

Trends in ... training and education

‘Adapt training to our workers, not the other way around’


What’s new in safety training and education? How can workers and employers better use training and education in the workplace? What are customers asking for? Safety+Health asked a panel of experts to weigh in. The panel:
Pandora Bryce, Ph.D., vice president of product development at SafeStart
Julie Carter, CSP, CHST, professor in the College of Safety and Emergency Services at Columbia Southern University
Carol Dietrich, product director, training services, at DEKRA North America
Shawn Smith, product director of training at KPA Here’s what they had to say.

What are some recent innovations or new strategies 
in the way workers are being trained/educated?

Bryce: Overall, there’s been a shift to increased remote training out of necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether it’s innovative or not varies wildly. Ideally, learning is relevant and available “just in time” at the location of need (for example, job aids attached to equipment, or job safety analysis templates on clipboards located and accessible where they’re going to be reviewed). New tools such as artificial and virtual reality are not yet widely embraced.

Carter: Visuals, stories and hands-on demonstrations are better at capturing the attention of today’s diverse workforce. Professionals must provide real-world scenarios, and making the content entertaining can help. Technology provides us with avenues such as social media, short video bursts, and messages that can be sent through text or email to give quick reminders on safety.

Dietrich: Upskilling and cross-training have become vital because of the shortage of workers and increase in remote working. Be careful not to “over skill” and burn out employees, but provide an avenue for them to learn skills and update others.

Smith: There’s been more evolution than innovation around the way workers are being trained/educated. Especially after COVID-19, training is better embraced, but it’s now evolved into online and mobile training. Mobile safety program capabilities provide important benefits for employees, such as on-demand access to safety training and incident remediation, shorter and more digestible training formats, and the ability to track safety and training data.

What do you wish all employers knew about training 
and education in the workplace?

Bryce: Training in the workplace needs to be in short chunks of time to maintain attention, and be spaced apart so the worker gets to sleep between “doses” of learning to absorb the material. Scheduling three or four training sessions in a single day is a recipe for reduced retention and lowered efficacy.

Carter: The days of “death by PowerPoint” are over. Adult learners don’t want a lecture. Their training must be meaningful, and it must make sense. Start the training with the basics, and add content that’s specific to your company’s needs. Add real-life situations and visual aids. Incorporate methods to ensure engagement, and get workers involved in the process.

Dietrich: Invest in good training. Web-based training shouldn’t be the same PowerPoint that was used for in-person training pre-pandemic. Don’t rush the process when creating new training. Take the time to do it right, and the return on investment will be there.

What concerns or questions are clients coming to you with about training and education? What advice do you offer?

Bryce: The biggest request we get from our clients is to make training shorter, not only through using shorter chunks of learning, but with shorter overall time spent. But in safety, where changes of mindset and behavior are concerned, it takes practice and repetitions of a particular type for learning to be absorbed. Not only do workers need active learning when they’re in a classroom session, they also need supervisors and managers to follow-up with sustainability activities integrated into their regular workflow.

Smith: We get a lot of questions about training related to OSHA directives, new or updated COVID-19 rules, heat hazards, regulatory concerns, hazardous materials disposal, and more. Not only do our clients want to keep their staff safe, but they also want to remain in compliance to avoid hefty penalties. Therefore, they want to ensure their safety programs are up to par. Another concern is the influx of new, less experienced hires. This is compounded by high turnover, which makes it difficult to adequately train new employees who you need to work and produce value right away. My advice to businesses is simple: consider adding digital capabilities to safety programs. Software makes it a lot easier to manage these programs and remain compliant.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Hearing protection
  • Protective clothing

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