While we usually think of “practice makes perfect” as a good thing, when employees continue “practicing mistakes,” the probability increases that their actions will result in an accident or injury.
Most organizations direct supervisors to conduct periodic safety meetings with their staff to increase the level of safety awareness throughout the organization. While the objective has merit, the supervisors are typically less than enthusiastic about the responsibility.
Increase safety & the company's bottom line
They view the safety meeting as just something else added to their ever-growing list of responsibilities — something they “have” to do rather than something that will increase the safety of their workplace and their bottom line. When safety training is viewed as something to check off of the supervisor’s list, these poorly focused meetings communicate to the staff that safety is not a priority.
A better approach is using very simple and focused information in a short lesson plan style. A single concept plan keeps the lessons focused so they don’t become rambling time killers, and the opportunity for non-safety issues to arise is eliminated.
Some companies reinforce the subject with visual support materials put up in common areas shared by staff. Many individuals are more visual learners than auditory, so illustrations in the form of posters and calendars are excellent tools to further the safety message.
Effective visual aids
It’s important to make sure those visual support materials reinforce the current message. Typical safety posters may have clever slogans, but they address a general audience. Frequently, the posters stay up way too long, almost becoming part of the wallpaper so they are no longer seen by staff.
Visual support materials designed specifically for the particular employees and work environment being targeted are much more effective. These materials are relevant, so people pay attention and everyone benefits from a healthier, safer workplace.
Learning styles matter
Safe performance is the interlocking of three distinct learning domains:
1. Cognitive – learning the correct procedure or “best practices.”
2. Affective – growth in feelings or emotional areas (attitude).
3. Psychomotor – physical skills.
Without all these learning domains addressed, ultimate safe performance will not be achieved. In most individuals, the affective is the most difficult to impact. Our built-in defense mechanisms tell us that accidents happen to others, not to ourselves.
Cognitive is fairly straight forward — you either know the rules or best practices or you do not. Psychomotor learning may require developing specific physical skills, like learning to fly a plane or operate a forklift.
Once we understand the rules and master the skills, we must then put them together with the proper attitude. The best way to shape attitudes is through small pieces of targeted information. Just as one-minute television commercials tend to change consumer behavior and get us to spend our hard-earned dollars, short lessons reinforced with demographically-targeted visuals can help shape safety attitudes.
Be proactive about safety, keep the training simple, and provide the tools to truly establish and maintain a corporate culture of safety.
Do your employees get the most out of your safety program? Let us help. Contact a DDM Risk Advisor for a complimentary review.
Kent Jessee (firstname.lastname@example.org) and his team have been assisting corporate America in shaping the safety culture for 38 years. Clients range from McDonalds, Chevron, Cox, Discount Tire Co. and many other recognized organizations. For more information, visit www.wkjessee.com.