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February 19, 2014
Engaging employees in safety training: BLR Safety Summit 2014 preview

Yesterday, we talked with BLR Safety Summit presenter Jeffrey Dennis about the best ways to prepare and deliver compelling safety training content. Today, Dennis will share some tips for engaging your audience.

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To hear more from Dennis on effective training techniques, attend the BLR Safety Summit from April 9-11, 2014, at The Westin Buckhead in Atlanta.

Tips for using humor

There’s certainly nothing funny about the consequences of a lockout/tagout failure or a hazardous spill. But if humor can help students learn and use strategies to prevent a potential tragedy, go for it, Dennis suggests.

Did you miss the articles featuring Safety Summit presenter Pam Walaski on social media and mobile apps for safety professionals? If so, be sure to check them out!

“Humor can be a double-edged sword,” he advises. “It can make you seem very personable, but you have to be careful because it can also offend.” Dennis says he’s more likely to tell a joke or humorous anecdote if he knows the group and has a sense of what they might find funny.

That speaks to the overall wisdom of knowing your audience and keeping them engaged. Find stories and anecdotes that resonate with participants.  “If I’m talking to a group of welders, I relate to things they see and do every day and use the terms that are familiar to them,” says Dennis. He doesn’t like to put people on the spot by asking specific questions. But if he can tell a participant is eager to talk, he’ll call on that person and say, “It looks like you’ve got a story about that—would you like to share it?”

Connect with your audience

Letting your personality shine through helps people engage with you and, as a result, engage with the content. Dennis notes that live training affords the opportunity to go off script by encouraging trainees to provide their own relevant stories, ideas, and viewpoints. All this adds to the personal connection Dennis considers essential for training success.

Mix things up. Take advantage of the fact that everyone’s got a phone in his or her pocket and go to a relevant site or check out an app as part of the training.

Other recommendations:

  • Don’t lecture your trainees to death.
  • Provide opportunities to apply the lessons, for example, by requiring breakout groups to come up with solutions to real safety problems in their industry.
  • Develop a curriculum that reflects various learning styles, including visual, auditory, and tactile learning.
  • Avoid the dreaded “death by PowerPoint” at all costs!

Communicating the value of safety training

According to Dennis, one of the most frustrating aspects of training for employees is that supervisors or managers often begrudge the time away from production. “But often that same supervisor has a supervisor who’s saying, ‘We’ve got to get this training done.’”

Most employers can’t afford to close down their operations for a day of safety training. The key, says Dennis, is striking a balance that takes into account the need for training and the requirement to maintain production.

At many companies, top management is supportive of safety training. But at other businesses, the attitude is less enlightened. “I answer that by telling them that training is an investment,” says Dennis. “Every dollar you put into training is going to come back tenfold because employees know how to accomplish their tasks more safely and more efficiently.”

The stakes are high, he adds. Beyond the obvious priority of keeping people from injury is the need for regulatory compliance. OSHA is increasingly interested in ensuring that employees have been effectively trained and that the training has been documented. Dennis advises, “OSHA wants to ask employees about training, and what they say better match what you’ve written and certified. If it doesn’t, that’s a big red flag.”

Want to hear more from Jeffrey Dennis? Join us at the BLR Safety Summit from April 9-11, 2014, at The Westin Buckhead in Atlanta. Check out the full conference agenda and register here.

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