Safety training is a leading tool implemented to promote incident and injury prevention. The objective of any training is to help people make safer decisions about actions they take in the workplace. In my experience, the catalyst to successful safety training is employee buy-in. If employees are not sold on the information presented, they will not practice safer methods in the field.
It's also important to know your audience. Adults learn in three ways: auditory, visual and tactile. Individuals may have a combination of these three learning styles, but each individual retains information the greatest from only one of the three styles.
In my experience, staff-level employees learn best from auditory and visual styles. This audience appreciates PowerPoint presentations and computer-based training. Craft-level employees do not retain information as well from those approaches, however, because most of them are tactile learners. These individuals must have a practical use for applying the information being presented. So, combining practical training with simulated video for tactile learners is the best method to gain employee buy-in during training sessions.
When presenting training, I focus on on the fact that my audience is occupied by adults. They need to feel respected; otherwise, they may tune out important information. It is also important to remember that adults are relevancy oriented--they constantly must know how training will benefit them. Being able to reach employees at a level where they feel their perspectives are understood is essential to a positive outcome.
An advantage of facilitating safety training with adults is their life experiences and knowledge. They can contribute personal stories about the topic at hand, which makes the training more authentic. Connecting the training to something that is personal to the individual is significant and strategic.
Some practices I have found useful in achieving positive employee buy-in are:
- Develop training that is personal and practical.
- Develop presentations that are a good combination of the three adult learning styles.
- Sustain desired behaviors practices through positive reinforcement.
Safety training does not eliminate hazardous conditions, but it is the foundation for recognizing hazards. Employee buy-in is achieved when the employees act safely when no one is watching.
Brenitha “Brei” Richardson, CSP, CSHM, is health and safety manager for Texas Molecular Deer Park Services Limited Partnership, a hazardous waste treatment storage and disposal facility. She holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University and is pursuing an M.S. in Occupational Safety and Health from Columbia Southern University.