Why is most safety training so boring? And so easily forgotten?
The safety training question is one Algoma University business professor and researcher Cathy Dénommé puzzles over all the time.
Dénommé’s research confirms her worst fears: Many young workers do not learn or retain the information and safety training they’re given to stay safe on the job.
“We have great information, cover all the bases, present it in what we think are interesting ways,” she says.
“But it is simply not effective.”
Dénommé complains of the apparent ‘disconnect’ between flashy videos, lectures with all manner of Power Point illustrations and interactive online courses and what young workers, in particular, are able to retain from all of it.
“They’re ‘taking the training’ but the training is not being retained,” she says.
Denomme says safety training is best retained when trainers keep in mind the outcomes they want to achieve and let their ‘students’ take them down paths of inquiry.
“We have to personalize safety training. We have to do what I call ‘training without a net.’”
Alan Quilley, an Edmonton-based work safety consultant agrees.
“Safety training is a conversation – not a lecture or a course delivered top-down,” says Quilley.
Quilley described one specific training situation.
- Heavy machinery operators were asked: Do you feel safe doing your job?
- When the new operators replied no, top-notch operators were brought in and asked: What are all the things you need to know when operating heavy equipment?
- The experienced workers talked and lists were made.
- The new operators were trained.
- Then they had to demonstrate to the experienced operators that they had absorbed the training and knew how to operate safely.
“You have to do the loop!” says Quilley. “Any kind of shortcut in that process is probably going to result in accidents.”
Dénomme and her Algoma U. colleagues presented their research results at a conference of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering in September, 2012, where they engaged safety manager in on-your-feet techniques to help younger workers retain safety training. Seton Canada was a proud sponsor of the workshop.
“We want to engage our audience in some meaningful training exercises – just to get a feel for what works and what does not. We hope to challenge people to be better trainers of young workers.”