Let’s be honest: Most workers don’t exactly see safety training as the most fun part of their jobs. They may understand its importance — particularly if they’ve faced hazards themselves — but it’s rare for an EHS professional to speak to a room full of fired-up, enthusiastic trainees.
Fortunately, safety training can be engaging and even fun. Trainees’ enjoyment and engagement are affected not just by the importance of what they’re learning, but by their ability to engage with the material.
In fact, injecting some entertainment into a lesson will likely make it more effective. Plenty of research has shown humor-filled talks and hands-on activities are better than traditional lectures at helping adults pick up new knowledge and skills. Likewise, if we consider our most memorable classroom experiences, they likely involved the topics we still retain to this day.
How can you liven up your company’s safety training, even if there aren’t many new and “exciting” policies to discuss? Here are a few ideas that will have your workers looking forward to every session you plan.
1. Find great examples
For inspiration, consider the times you’ve enjoyed learning difficult, technical or even downright boring material. Don’t limit yourself to safety-related topics. Depending on when you grew up, you may fondly remember Bill Nye the Science Guy, Reading Rainbow, Wishbone and a host of other educational programs. Few kids were excited about studying science or literature from a textbook, but these shows were hits because they made those topics fun and relatable.
For a little more ‘grown-up’ inspiration, think about the more educational shows and movies you’ve watched. Mythbusters or Cosmos may come to mind, as well as a myriad of documentaries. Distilled down to their technical topics, none of these programs would offer much in the way of entertainment. Given their use of narrative, jokes and digestible factoids, however, they’ve all been hits.
2. Use humor
A little humor goes a long way, particularly with trainees who are expecting the next few hours to be a snoozefest. A joke or two at the outset of a presentation can win over a crowd, and it pays to poke fun at the mundanity of the topic at hand. Novelty enhances learning, and few things are more memorable than a good joke or funny situation. It’s so important that safety consultants create lessons purely about finding and leveraging the humor in safety-related topics.
Don’t have many jokes up your sleeve? Consider a funny video, instead — either one your team creates or something relevant that already exists. For inspiration, check out this set of hilarious safety videos.
3. Consider different learning styles
Not everyone learns the same way. Some people are visual learners, others learn best with hands-on activities and others still retain the most information through speaking and listening. Given that most people exhibit a mixture of those traits, the most engaging safety sessions will involve multiple media. Instead of a long lecture followed by Q&A, try a combination of short oral presentations, visual aids, and hands-on demonstrations.
4. Play games
Games create an engaging, low-risk environment for learning new information. They also provide immediate feedback and an opportunity for learners to fill gaps in their knowledge. Consider introducing an interactive game to run through safety training exercises and boost knowledge retention among employees with solutions like EHS Hero’s Behavior Based Observations tool. If possible, include an incentive in your game structure to boost morale and collaboration among teams and motivate participation.
5. Get the vets on board
People love to learn from respected peers, and it’s easy to respect long-established skills and experience. Even if you’re the most knowledgeable person at your company with regards to safety, there are likely longstanding workers who are well-equipped to teach it to new hires. Whenever possible, encourage their participation in lectures and group discussions, and ask them to help during hands-on demonstrations.
Likewise, you’ll eventually want to encourage those new hires to become teachers themselves. From lockout-tagout to the use of new and existing PPE, every important safety lesson becomes more ingrained the more often it’s discussed, practiced, and taught. Psychologists often reference the “Learning Pyramid,” which holds that we retain only 5% of what we hear but 90% of what we teach to others.
6. Offer incentives
There’s no harm in adding a little competition to the mix, right? Competition can bring out the best in us, and rewards could be a great way to encourage not only attendance, but active participation. Offer gift cards, company credit or other tangible prizes during quizzes and team games and watch your workers’ participation skyrocket. To help the information stick, consider similar incentives for safe behaviors in the following weeks.
7. Keep it brief
Employees will only retain the knowledge they put into practice. Drawn-out safety sessions may seem like a good idea when you’ve got a lot of material to cover, but it’s unlikely your workers will remember much past the first hour or two.
A more realistic (and logistically feasible) approach is to schedule more frequent, brief training sessions, each of which is part new material and part review. Encourage reinforcement by bringing these topics up at daily discussions and during on-the-job exercises, instead of just waiting for the next formal training session.
8. Constant reinforcement
Practice makes perfect! Even an excellent safety training session will only have a lasting effect on trainees who immediately and consistently apply the lessons to their everyday tasks.
To bolster your lessons, make sure your supervisors are discussing the same topics in their own meetings and toolbox talks. Pass out safety surveys to see how well the information stuck. And, if your employees are dealing with hazardous equipment and PPE, reinforce safe practices with scheduled preventative maintenance.
Lastly, people generally require multiple exposures to information in order to effectively retain it, and people may have different learning styles and preferences. So, offering a variety of delivery options and formats can help accommodate different learning needs. It’s also important to regularly review and update training materials to ensure they remain relevant and effective.
It’s also beneficial to have pre-made training materials available, such as those provided by BLR’s EHS Hero, to save time and effort in creating training from scratch. Using PowerPoint slides, presentation scripts, handouts, and quizzes can provide a variety of engagement options for learners, which can help them stay interested and engaged in the training. Additionally, pre-made materials can help ensure that important safety information is covered thoroughly and accurately.