It’s often a challenge to capture the attention of employees when the subject is safety.
It’s not exactly the most inherently interesting subject matter. That’s why many employers have started using several new strategies.
Some of them, like virtual reality, are based on new technologies.
Sometimes you have to think outside of the box when it comes to training. For example, a utility company uses virtual reality to practice conducting safety inspections at sites.
Wearing a headset and holding a controller in each hand—trainees stand in front of a big-screen TV where a module is displayed for the class to view. Following a brief tutorial, the trainee is asked to accomplish specific tasks. Beginning with choosing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), to conducting a thorough inspection and completing required tasks, trainees will encounter a few virtual surprises along the way — from loose handrails and missing basement stairs to curious pets, and the occasional scurrying rat. This prepares trainees to master their tasks safely while experiencing common field conditions designed to break their concentration. The goal is to help them maintain safety at all times.
“Safety is serious business at Con Edison. Virtual-reality training takes safety to the next level by enabling employees to simulate the experience of inspecting a variety of gas and electric service installations, to prevent equipment failure or potential injury — something that traditional classroom instruction cannot replicate,” said Keith Scully, manager of Business Process & Technology. “It is another tool we’re using to improve the safety and proficiency of our workforce to achieve our mission of providing light and warmth to New York City and Westchester County.”
Interactive Learning Maps
Delta Airlines uses interactive learning maps to provide safety training for new flight attendants.
“Sitting in a room [hearing lectures about passenger safety] wasn’t working,” Susann Scott, the airline’s director of corporate safety told Angel Childers of Business Insurance magazine. “With interactive learning maps, they were faced with different scenarios on a plane or a layover, and had to talk among themselves about what to do if faced with a situation.”
Delta created the learning maps by having flight attendants with various years and levels of experience identify difficult problems they had experienced on the job. Then together with trainees, they developed a range of solutions for the trainees to choose from.
“The beauty of the learning map is people come to the ‘aha!’ moments themselves rather than you telling them that this is the right answer,” according to Scott.
Image-Based Training Tools
In some industries, employees may not read above the level of a fifth-grader. In some cases, they may not even speak English. “Using [the image-based training tools] approach and making it as visual as possible can also help illustrate safety solutions to the 14 percent of the workforce that can’t read, and the 30 percent that can only read at a basic level,” says Linda Tapp, president of SafetyFUNdamentals in Madison, New Jersey, which creates corporate training games and activities.
Making a game out of safety is another technique used by many safety educators. For example, Frank Fox, a retired safety director at Dow Chemical, likes to simulate a game of Jeopardy for employees. (You might want to substitute something more healthful for the candy bar rewards he doles out though):
“Training or reviewing OSHA standards can be dry and hard to swallow. We used the Jeopardy format and divided the sessions in half to do a review after the training. The different standards could have questions from easy to hard, with corresponding values. The teams alternate choosing a standard topic and question value. If an individual answers it correctly he/she gets a candy bar, when a team wins, everyone on the team gets a candy bar. Competition is always there, and points and candy bars mark the win. When the first session goes through it, the word is out and people show up with thinking caps on.”
Considering the average cost of a workplace injury is $77,000, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an investment in safety learning tools like these can make good economic sense.