Training experts agree that the difference between an effective safety training session and a lackluster presentation is preparation. Today’s Advisor shows you how to prepare by using the journalistic approach of asking ‘W’ questions, such as who, what, and where.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says you have to train employees in everything from using personal protective equipment (PPE) to recognizing chemical hazards to taking emergency action. They tell you what the content of training should be, but they don’t tell you how to conduct training so that you capture your employees’ interest and attention and get your important safety and health messages across.
After all, that’s a critical part of any training session. If you don’t do that, one or more of your workers who wasn’t paying attention could walk out of a safety meeting and right into an accident.
The good news is that preparation doesn’t have to take hours and hours of your time. Just ask these eight questions to ensure that you have everything covered:
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1. Who’s my audience? Are they new employees, experienced veterans, or a mixed group? Knowing your audience helps determine the approach you take, the type of presentation to make, and the points to emphasize.
2. What’s my goal? Is your presentation a general introduction to be followed by more-specific training later, or is this follow-up, in-depth training about a particular work practice or item of equipment? Don’t stop at generalities if your real goal is to achieve in-depth understanding of the topic.
3. What about content? How much information you present depends on regulatory requirements as well as time limitations. Remember, too, that trainees can only take in so much new information before they start to overload and tune out. So, as you prepare your training outline, think about presenting a reasonable amount of information, while still leaving time for demonstrations, questions, practice, etc.
4. What’s the “takeaway”? What is one thing you want your audience to remember from the presentation, even if they were to forget everything else? Decide on a succinct message or “punch line,” and make sure you include it in your presentation more than once and on a handout.
5. Do I understand the material? You can’t expect to achieve your goals if you’re not sure what you’re talking about. Do you need to refresh yourself on certain points? Is there new information about the topic that you need to research and incorporate into the material?
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6. What questions am I likely to get? Anticipate the areas that your audience may find unclear or difficult to grasp, and know how to handle their questions.
7. Am I physically prepared? Do you plan to use audiovisual equipment, computers, or physical props? How do you want the room or training area to be set up? Make sure everything is in place and works correctly and that you know how to use key equipment. Fumbling around with equipment is a surefire way to undermine a training session from the start.
8. Where should I hold the safety training? Should it take place in the work area or in a classroom setting? Here’s how to break down the decision:
- Work area. This is obviously the best place for toolbox talks, demonstrations, and hands-on training.
Upside: You have all the materials and equipment you need for the session handy.
Downside: There may be noise and distractions if others are working in or passing through the area. To solve this problem, find a spot where trainees are blocked off as much as possible from activity around them, or set up some kind of temporary screens.
- Classroom. This is the best choice when you are giving a lecture or trying to transfer information, such as new safety rules or regulatory requirement. It’s also a good choice when you’re showing a video or doing computer-based training.
Upside: Classroom training removes employees from the distractions of the work area so that they can more easily assimilate new information.
Downside: Because classroom training removes employees from the work area, it can make training abstract and more difficult to transfer to the job. To solve this problem, provide handouts to remind employees of what they learned and how to apply it to their jobs.
In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at 10 communication tips to make your safety—or any—training more effective.