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Campbell Institute: Train Workers on Visual Literacy to Spot Hazards

Pilot study reports how Cummins Inc. has trained employees on visual literacy principles.

New findings show that workers are able to spot workplace hazards more accurately when they are trained on the concepts of visual literacy.

The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council completed a study which examined how employees at companies such as Cummins Inc. have been able to identify otherwise unnoticed hazards after training.

“About 90% of the information people consume is visual,” said John Dony, Campbell Institute director, in a statement. “Taking in that much visual data can lead us to have inattentional blindness – only seeing what we deem important to see but being blind to many other details, like potential hazards. That’s why training workers to better see where those hazards might exist is crucial to workplace health and safety.”

According to A Second Look: Update on Visual Literacy, employees who have received the visual literacy training have identified new types of hazards by using the elements and process of visual literacy, which has led to improvements and fixes in their work environments.

Within three months after training at Cummins Inc. was completed, 132 issues were identified and 25 new hazards were corrected.

There also appears to be an increase in the number of proactive hazard and near-miss reports after the delivery of visual literacy training. Workers also are showing a heightened risk perception and lower risk tolerance.

The Campbell Institute has partnered with the Center of Visual Expertise (COVE) to provide the train-the-trainer workshops for institute members in the pilot project.

To continue with the evaluation, the researchers at the Institute and COVE hope to receive more data on Job Safety Analyses (JSA) from all the project sites to test the hypothesis that visual literacy for hazard recognition can result in better quality JSAs.

COVE evaluations of the training workshops show that employers find this new concept of visual literacy to be very helpful.

Based on 55 evaluations, 95% would recommend the workshop to a colleague, and 100% have endorsed the relevance of visual literacy to the field of environment, health and safety.

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