The definition of insanity, said Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. What would have Einstein thought of the typical safety trainer? After all, training hasn’t changed much over the years. Organizations are still training for the sake of training. And this traditional approach is still producing – or at least not helping to prevent – disasters such as Westray, BP Refinery, Sago Mines, etc.
Clearly, we need to break the cycle of insanity and start doing things differently. For safety training to be effective, it must be simple and it must be entertaining. But, above all, safety training must bring about change in the people who receive the training.
Defining the Training Program’s Purpose
When putting together a safety training program, whether as a safety director, manager or trainer, the first step is to think results. Ask yourself: What do I want my training program to accomplish? If it’s only to comply with legal requirements, I submit that you’re wasting your time. But if your motivation is to reduce costs from accidents/incidents and improve safety performance, then you’re on the right track.
Selecting the Right Trainer
The next step in creating a training program is to select an appropriate trainer. This should be a person who is willing to try new things and bring his or her own creativity and innovation to the safety program. The trainer must have credibility; communication skills; and motivation to bring about change.
Implementing the Right Training Methods
What does “motivation to bring about change” mean? It means changing the people we train. That involves going beyond covering the material in a workshop. What we bring into the training workshop does not matter. And if we aren’t making a difference, what we talk about does not matter. All that matters is whether trainees learn the appropriate lessons from the workshop and then apply those lessons to their daily practice.
For a successful training workshop, trainers should:
- Focus on the changes they want to effectuate in their trainees;
- Get trainees involved and engaged from the get-go;
- Share stories and experiences to make a point. People remember stories and, therefore, the underlying point those stories make;
- Be sensitive to trainees’ reactions; and
- Be flexible. If you are not getting the reaction and participation from trainees that you want, you must change your approach on the spot.
Effecting Change by Engaging Your Trainees
For training to be effective, trainees must be more than passive recipients of information; they must play a role in communicating that information during the training session. But how do you get trainees involved? Try this exercise. Early in training sessions, ask each participant three questions:
- Can you describe a situation at home or at work where you were or could have been seriously injured?
- How could you have prevented this from happening?
- What did you learn from the experience?
- This exercise achieves four keys things early in the workshop:
- It gives participants an opportunity to talk about something personal (everyone has a story);
- It makes participants feel recognized, important, relaxed and thus willing to contribute and participate in a learning experience;
- It gives participants an opportunity to teach each other based on their own experiences; and
- It gives trainers the chance to make points from the trainees’ stories (as well as accumulate great stories they can use in future training sessions).
You don’t want to let your trainees leave a training session without making a commitment to change. To secure such a commitment, at the end of a session, ask each trainee what are you going to do to improve the health and safety program in your organization? Not what someone else is going to do, but what are you going to do?
Training is not about what goes on during the workshop. Training is about what happens in the days, months and years after the session ends. Sometime after the training, ask yourself what has changed? If you’re able to answer that one, then your training has been successful. You’re a step beyond training to education. Training is about how; education is about why. But that’s another article.