Improving Safety Training: 10 Tips for New Trainers
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
Effective safety training engages employees in safety efforts and improves workplace safety performance. Unfortunately, employees often complain that safety training is boring and repetitive. Effective leaders improve safety training by providing hands-on training (e.g., use actual fire extinguishers during fire safety training), bringing in dynamic guest speakers, hiring training consultants for special programs, and ensuring new employees receive all necessary training before working and more experienced employees get periodic refresher training.
Also, webinars are an increasingly cost-effective and convenient way to conduct training. This is especially true during COVID re-entry. Computer-based training programs are also increasingly used. However, computer-based training should supplement and not replace hands-on or live, virtual training. Finally, hourly employees can provide great credibility when they conduct safety training because fellow employees can easily relate to (and trust) the speaker.
Safety training with new trainers can be difficult, especially with less tenured personnel. It takes time to get proficient at training, but certain tips can help. Here are some safety training guidelines to consider, especially for new trainers and/or inexperienced hourly employees.
1. Know the Content and Get Organized
Nothing instills fear in trainers more than not fully understanding the materials. Employees are well served to over-prepare and practice delivering the materials (and getting feedback) before doing the actual training. Practice runs with peers also helps.
2. Provide Personal Stories and Testimonials
Stories and testimonials make the training personal and help participants better relate to the materials and presenter. Testimonials with injuries and close calls drive home the purpose of the safety training.
3. Be Honest and Sincere
Employees speaking from the heart gain credibility and appreciation from participants. Trainers should regularly relate their own experiences and avoid reading bulleted items slide after slide (i.e., Death by PowerPoint).
4. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
Trainers should move forward following minor mistakes (e.g., repeating a bulleted item) especially since training participants often don’t notice the mistakes anyway. Also, if trainers don’t know the answer to a question, they should tell the person they’ll find out as soon as possible and get back to them instead of giving vague or incomplete responses.
5. Relax and Slow Down
When trainers are nervous, they often speak extremely fast. This decreases training effectiveness and disrupts the training schedule. Asking open-ended questions to audience members often affords the trainer a chance to relax and slow down.
6. Ask Questions to Facilitate Discussion
Asking open ended questions is also a great way to make the training more interactive and employees appreciate the opportunity to share their own opinions. This is especially important with virtual training.
7. Use Group Exercises
Trainers should have group exercises built into their training presentations. These exercises facilitate group discussions which help employees better learn the materials and also makes the workshops more fun. Use breakout sessions with employees discussing issues together to make training more interesting, fun, and effective.
8. Manage Time Appropriately
Trainers need to start and stop on time as well as provide sufficient time for breaks (at least one break every 90 minutes). Also, never go past the allotted time for training.
9. Get Feedback
Feedback evaluation forms are helpful in letting trainers understand how participants are reacting to the training. Feedback forms should encourage participants to list strengths, weaknesses, and improvement ideas for the training session.
10. Manage Logistics
Trainers need to ensure the following items are in order: computer, LCD projector, handouts, flip charts (with markers, pens and tape), and (most importantly) food and refreshments. For virtual environments, ensure meeting invites are clear and make it effortless to toggle between breakouts and the main room.
Overall, safety training is a key component to organizational change. Using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in studying 2,358 companies, Waehrer and Miller (2009) found that companies with robust safety training programs had 24% fewer injuries compared with those who do not.
These tips will help you deliver fun, engaging, and impactful training to improve safety culture and prevent serious injuries and fatalities.
Take the following Self-Assessments to gauge the current effectiveness of your safety training: https://www.propulo.com/selfassessment/
Please read more in Josh’s related post “Top ten ways to improve safety leadership: A view from employees”: a list of top 10 recommendations for improvement from the perspective of front-line employees.