October 4, 2018

Three powerful tips for effective safety training

When it comes to on-the-job safety training, there is perhaps no one better than Pinnacol Safety Services Supervisor John Crawmer. With more than 500 trainings under his belt, he’s seen what kind of training works and what withers. We sat down with John to discuss three tips for safety leaders, whether building a safety program from scratch or improving an existing one.

Get your hands dirty

Making safety training relatable to the employee’s real-world work environment is critical. “This is not a new concept,” said John. “It’s a learning model based on Edgar Dale’s research from the 1960s. The average person retains only 10% of what they hear, but addresses five key learning modalities can make training more successful.”

John is referring to a model known as the Cone of Experience. You may have also heard it referred to as experiential, hands-on or action learning. The five ways safety trainers can make the information stick include giving the students the opportunity to:

  1. hear the information
  2. read the information
  3. see or observe the information
  4. put the information into practice
  5. teach the information to others

Focus on the rookies

According to five years of Pinnacol’s claims data, approximately 40 percent of injuries occur in the first 12 months on the job, and of those, about 30 percent occur in the first six months.

That’s why John advises managers, foreman and team leaders who oversee training to pay special attention to newer employees on the job. “When we talk about new employees, we’re not just talking about people who are new to their field. Even the most seasoned workers will have a higher incidence of injury when with a new employer or in a new, unfamiliar work environment,” John said.

That’s why safety training for employees needs to go beyond day one.

“Leaders should ask themselves if they are checking in with new hires 30, 60 and 90 days after hiring.” John noted.  “Reinforcement makes a difference.”

Many employers don’t take advantage of senior employees to share their experience with new hires.  They are a wealth of information and have likely witnessed safety incidents firsthand. Relaying that experience to new employees is invaluable.

“We also encourage employers to stay away from words that might cause stress for new employees,” John said. “For example, we recommend using the phrase ‘comprehension confirmation’, rather than ‘safety quiz’ or ‘test’, which tend to create anxiety.”

Customize the training

Designing training around the employees’ tasks is crucial for effective learning. According to John, one of the most common questions he gets is about selecting the right kind of training for the team.  

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration can help with OSHA Publication 2254, a free, downloadable resource. In the guide, employers will find a comprehensive list of OSHA training requirements. From there, trainers choose which sections are relevant to their industry. For example, sections regarding marine safety won’t be applicable to many Pinnacol customers. Some requirements are universal, however, such as fall prevention, emergency action planning and fire prevention.

Employers also have access to Pinnacol’s training resources, including in-person events, online training and more. Need some one-on-one advice? Contact Safety On Call at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.