Improving safety often means changing worker behavior.
And to do that successfully, there’s one question every supervisor should ask before a training session: “What do I want this safety training session to change?”
Why? Because it sets up a goal for the session.
Having a clear, targeted goal for each session will improve your safety meetings – and employees’ safety behaviors.
What else works for other safety professionals?
That’s just one lesson learned by supervisors of all stripes, through decades of experience.
Supervisors and trainers can forget that most of the tried-and-true teaching methods don’t change. Human behavior is the reason – some people will always practice good safety habits and do as they’re trained.
Other folks need motivation reminders and warnings to make safety a priority. Simple as that!
Here are 10 tried-and-true safety tips to keep in mind for future training sessions, toolbox talks and simple conversations with employees in the workplace:
1. Make them think critically
Here’s an exercise to test if trainees understand a concept and can put the proper steps of a procedure in the correct order.
Give them the steps for locking and tagging out a machine as follows:
- Apply a lock to the machinery
- Notify a Supervisor and co-workers what’s being locked out and why
- Attempt to start the machine
- Isolate the energy source
- Power down the machine as you normally would
Then ask workers to write down the correct order for the steps (in this case: 2, 5, 4, 1, 3).
Any wrong answers will tell you a review of Lockout/Tagout is in order ASAP.
2. Visual lessons are tough to forget
Sometimes it’s best to keep training short, sweet and to the point. You can have a 10-minute training session that no one forgets, by making sure it’s impactful.
For example, if the topic is on PPE, drop a weight on a steel-toe boot or a glove filled with hot dogs. Have everyone take a close look at the resulting damage to drive home the point.
Most workers retain live demonstrations better than most lectures or PowerPoint presentations.
In addition to visual lessons, a job aid (also called performance support or workflow learning) can come in handy.
A job aid might be as simple as a Post-It note stuck on a computer or a checklist with start-up instructions next to a machine.
It can also be more high-tech, such as a PDF manual or a video that a worker accesses at a machine by scanning a QR code with a mobile device, according to Vector Solutions, a company that specializes in safety training.
3. When is the best time to train?
Research shows it matters what time of day you schedule your training sessions.
Workers are two to three times more likely to pick up on training and remember it when sessions are held in the morning.
By contrast, two out of three workers admitted they daydreamed more often in afternoon sessions.
Lesson: You might not be able to hold every meeting in the morning, but hold the most important sessions before noon.
4. Read the fine print and do the math
Fact: The average American male weighs more than 190 pounds, and the average American female weighs 165 pounds.
The weight limits for ladders include the user (only one!) and whatever tools and materials he or she is carrying, like a can of paint, power tools, hand tools, heavy work boots, etc. A fully loaded tool belt can easily weigh 20 pounds by itself.
Bottom line: A lot more employees should be using Type I and Type IA ladders that can support their weight safely rather than Type II or Type III ladders.
Consider whether you should discuss this during group sessions, or one-on-one with certain employees, to ensure people are choosing the right ladders for their body types.
5. Eye protection lesson they won’t forget
If you catch employees not wearing eye protection, consider this corrective step:
Starting at your next meeting, have workers wear an eye patch over one eye and ask them to read along with a training lesson.
Then ask them to do simple tasks like lift boxes and put items away (don’t let them use machinery or tools, of course).
Workers will see what it’s like to do a job without the use of one eye. It’s a surefire way to make sure they put on eye PPE.
6. Use pop quizzes to spot injuries sooner
Workers often won’t realize a task is leading to an ergonomic injury until it’s too late.
Solution: At training sessions, ask them:
- Do you need to stretch before or after doing regular tasks?
- Do you have a muscle strain or pull right now?
- Are you experiencing pain after a shift?
Having workers think critically about these repetitive tasks could help you find problems – and target solutions before they lead to injury.
7. Walkthroughs: Keep eyes peeled for 8 issues
When you’re on the lookout for workplace hazards, take a tip from the U.S. Military. Make a note of:
- Overloaded electrical circuits
- Blocked aisles and passageways
- Electrical cords in walkways
- Improperly stored chemicals
- Missing/old fire extinguishers
- Slippery or uneven floors
- Poorly maintained ladders
- Missing safety or exit signs
8. Can they stump you?
Split staffers into teams to review a safety session.
Ask them to come up with a question to “stump” you for your next get-together.
A team that can stump you earns a point toward donuts and coffee (five points total) or a staff lunch (maybe 10 points). The reward can be at your expense or the company’s.
9. Leave OSHA out of the discussion
Every trainer has at one point or another started a point with, “OSHA requires us to …”.
You’re better off not laying the “blame” for reviewing any safety topic on OSHA or any other regulatory agency. The message people hear subconsciously is, “We don’t think it’s that important but we have to learn this because the government says so.”
Keep tabs on how often you mention OSHA during training, and try to minimize it for future sessions.
10. Don’t ignore near-misses
Getting workers to report near misses can significantly improve your safety program.
You can do this by:
- offering an anonymous reporting system
- having workers help investigate the incident, and
- getting workers to report the results of an investigation as a safety training session.