Safety Trainer: Villain or Hero?

A training expert from the University of Alabama explains what you can do to turn yourself from a villain trainer into a training hero.

With the best of intentions, trainers go forth to show the way and keep the world safe for workers. Too often, they return with tattered capes, broken swords and splintered hopes when time is too short, pressure pours on and trainees get bored and dismiss their efforts.

It doesn''t have to be that way, according to Barbara Hilyer, training program director with the University of Alabama Center for Labor Education and Research in Birmingham, Ala.

Hilyer told attendees at the Voluntary Protection Participants'' Association conference, how to turn themselves from villains into heroes when it comes to safety training.

"Participatory training methods should be the norm in worker training, as participatory learning results in more learning and longer remembering," said Hilyer. "Effective training is never boring."

Hilyer outlined six steps to training success.

Step One -- Identify training needs.

Hilyer said there are sources of information within the company that can be used to help you identify training needs. These include, lists of employee job functions and responsibilities, job hazard analyses of these job functions, accident and injury reports, and records of illness and injury.

Step Two -- Determine the goal of each training block.

Write the overall goal of each session or topic, said Hilyer. In one sentence, what do you hope to achieve?

Step Three -- Write specific, measurable objectives.

Write learning objectives that will lead to the accomplishment of the goal. Hilyer said to write the objectives in terms of what will be learned, not what will be taught.

For example, "to teach workers how to recognize hazardous chemicals" is too vague, and is expressed in terms of what the trainer will do, said Hilyer, not in terms of what the trainees will do.

One way to ensure your objectives are written with trainee actions in mind is to head up the list of objectives with the phrase, "on completion of training, trainees will be able to," and then list those abilities.

"Remember that each objective must be measurable," said Hilyer. "You must be able to test whether the trainee can accomplish each objective."

Step Four -- Develop materials and methods.

This step consists of figuring out just what information and practice trainees must have in order to accomplish each objective you have written.

Development of training also includes selecting the best methods to use for each topic from the many you could use.

"Always select a method that requires trainees to ''DO'' something and participate actively in training," said Hilyer. "Please do not just stand up and say words to people, or let a video do the same thing. Telling is not training."

Hilyer suggested that there are more than 20 good training methods. She shared several of these methods. The following are examples of good training methods. More examples can be found in Hilyer''s book, Effective Safety and Health Training.

  • Pinata. Fill a pinata with candy and slips of paper on which you have written whatever you have chosen to have trainees do. These could be roles for role play, problems to solve in groups or multiple matching items they match up.
  • Playing Cards. Use cards as a grouping aid. Take out matching value from each suit to arrive at a number that gives you exactly the number of cards as the number of participants. Four groups? Divide by suits. More? Divide by face value. Two groups? Black and red.
  • Music. Have music playing before trainees enter the room, and let it run until it is time to start. The music you pick helps set the mood you want. Hilyer suggest "Industrial Disease" by Dire Straits.
  • Yo-yo. When training trainers, have them teach someone to yo-yo without demonstrating. This works only if the trainee doesn''t already know how to do it, or when the trainer is teaching some new trick previously not mastered by the trainee. Other physical skills can be used for this, but should be relatively simply.

Whatever method you use, Hilyer said every topic you teach should have a lesson plan. The lesson plan tells you what to do, how long it should take and what you need to do it with, in other words, it lists your materials and methods.

Step Five -- Conduct the training.

Consider your options for the location, time set-up and all the materials you will need to do the training. Hilyer said, the more you train, the better you get if you are honestly working toward this goal.

Step Six -- Evaluate and improve training.

Good evaluation instruments will help you determine what materials are being understood and what training methods are working.

"Seek feedback from trainees, their supervisors, other trainers you invite into your classes, and anyone and everyone you can lure into the class to help you improve your training," said Hilyer. "Evaluate the process as well as the outcomes."

by Virginia Foran

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