Finding Stories for Storytelling in Safety Training

Many safety trainers know the importance of using stories in safety training but one question that often comes up is where to find stories. One way to find stories is to pay attention to the news and if there is a story about an accident that helps illustrate the training topic, it might be a good one to use. The following story is all over the news here in my hometown of NJ because if you are familiar with the Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, you know he is from this area. This is a really a bazaar accident but no doubt one that safety professionals will be able to analyze and in it find some “lessons learned” to share with trainees if appropriate.

As some people know, I had a traumatic hand injury myself in 2013 which resulted in 18 months of occupational therapy – similar to what Buddy is facing. My injury was the result of a truly freak accident so it’s not particularly useful for sharing with others as “what not to do.” Stories should not be shared in a safety training class if they are not relevant and will not help the trainees to better understand a point you are trying to make or help emphasize a lesson you want to teach. Although all of the details of Buddy’s story are not in the articles I have seen, it is not hard to imagine how a similar accident could occur while performing certain workplace tasks unless the proper controls are in place. When sharing the accident with a group of trainees, you could ask “Where could a similar accident occur in our facility?” or “How do you think this accident could have been prevented?” or “What could be implemented to stop a similar accident from happening in the future?” Anything you can do to help tie this accident to the actual workplace will be valuable in helping the trainees remember the class content and hopefully, apply their new knowledge back on the job.

Best wishes to Buddy for a speedy recovery!

Training as Punishment

When reviewing an accident investigation form, how many times have you seen the suggested corrective action listed as re-training? Often this is because a Supervisor often thinks that re-training is really the best solution especially if the accident is believed to have happened because information that an individual should have learned in a training class was not applied and therefore, an accident occurred. Suggesting re-training as the corrective action is a fast and easy response even if it is not likely to solve the problem or prevent future similar accidents from occurring. Training is beneficial when there is a lack of knowledge or skills and if an employee has those but fails to use that knowledge and those skills correctly, training or re-training is not the answer.

In other cases, requiring an employee to sit in another 8-hour long boring safety training class or in front of a long computer based training program is seen as serving two purposes: To remind the employee of the information once again and second, as a sort of punishment. There are many bad safety training programs out there and usually, poor content or delivery is not deliberate. When the training experience is something to be dreaded, it appeals to supervisors looking to somehow punish employees for bad behavior.

Training and re-training should not be used as a punishment and often, training is not the answer for a variety of safety problems. If training is thought of as a punishment, any future new training you try to get the workforce excited about will not be seen in a positive light. An important part of increasing the amount of information trainees remember and use back on the job is getting them motivated to learn in the first place. Once training is used as a weapon, it is going to be very difficult to flip the coin and get trainees excited about attending any training in the future. Additionally, if you found yourself forced into a training situation because of something you did wrong, what is your mindset going to be like? In order for training to be effective, trainees need to be comfortable, both mentally and physically. If a trainee feels as if they are “sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap,” very little of the training is going to be absorbed, and the cycle starts again. Additionally, future training initiatives will be affected as well. Do not use training as a punishment and if you already do, stop and start working on your way to building a safety training program that does more than just allow a company to check off boxes.

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Two Tickets to Paradise

How did Michael Scott from the Office end up costing his producers $60,000? He sang a few lines of “Two Tickets to Paradise” without permission. Using others music in safety training as well as television shows, movies, etc. is usually illegal and can result in having to pay damages. There are some great benefits to using music in your training classes but it needs to be done according to copyright rules. Music sharing rules can be complicated so do your homework. One of the best sources of information I have found on the topic can be found in this article from Lexology. Check it out here.

Burning Man and Safety Conferences

Would you ever have expected to see “Burning Man” and “Safety Conference” in the same sentence? If you aren’t familiar with it, Burning Man is like a festival (although the website says it is explicitly not) but technically an annual “community – a temporary city – a global cultural movement” attended by 70,000 people in Nevada. Like so many other scheduled events in 2020, Burning Man had to decide whether or not to cancel or go virtual. Even more than a safety conference, Burning Man is based on lots of personal contact with others and experiences and when you take those aspects away, many of the signature experiences are gone.

While reading an article in Fast Company about how Burning Man made the transition to a virtual event, I started to think that if the words “Safety Conference” were substituted for “Burning Man” throughout the article, there would be some good ideas to consider for making safety conferences different from other Zoom conferences which would be a great idea considering so many of us have Zoom fatigue. Before I list a few ideas, it’s important to point out that die-hard Burning Man attendees are probably more likely to own a high-end virtual reality headset and this was a key piece of equipment for the virtual Burning Man experience. It would be great if the popularity of VR helps bring the cost down of headsets but until then, there are a few other lessons to be learned.

“Event organizers need to find a way to remind people of what they experience at the traditional version of an event.”

What are the most remembered experiences of a live safety event? For different people that probably means different things but finding a way to add these experiences to the virtual world is key. (For me, it’s running into old friends by accident).

Second, events should take advantage of the content they normally offer.

For safety conferences, the content they usually offer is mainly education and networking opportunities but things like on-site interviews, chances to participate in contests, shopping in a conference store and celebrations of accomplishments are all important to continue.

Third, leverage the creative energies of the community. The benefit of leveraging that energy is that as people discover and encounter the things they love from their event, they’ll tell everyone about it. It is important to add things that people can get excited abut and are shareable.

Lastly, events should find a way to take advantage of technology.

Luckily, everyone’s skills with online conference platforms have gotten much stronger and attendees are much more comfortable using this technology. As groups try hard to continuously improve and add to attendees’ experiences, new technology will undoubtedly be introduced that can make online events even better.

If you have attended a safety conference in person in the past, what have been your favorite experiences? What would you love see reproduced in a virtual event?

The Safety Training Catch

Are you subscribed to the SafetyFUNdamentals Newsletter? Each issue is short – 1 page – and will show you 6 things that can help you to become a better safety trainer. If you are not subscribed, you can sign up quickly and easily at https://bit.ly/SFNetSignUp (and you can unsubscribe at any time:)

PS – If you want to check out what you missed, you can view the last newsletter here.


Appreciation for Safety Professionls on Labor Day

OSHA’s website states Labor Day “…is a day to reflect on how workplace conditions have improved over the course of our nation’s history, and to look ahead at what we can do to continue making workers’ lives better.”

With this description, Labor Day is really a day of appreciation for all safety and health professionals. Although our profession has gotten a lot more attention recently due to the Covid-19 crisis, many people have no idea what we do and the effect our efforts have on workplace safety. We have made great strides and workplaces are much safer than they were in the past. Of course, we still have work to do but none of that work would get done and progress would not be made without safety professionals like you!

Where in the World Wrap Up

The SafetyFUNdamentals Where in the World Contest has finished. I hope you enjoyed travelling with me around the world. If you are a subscriber of SafetyFUNdamentals Newsletter, the SafetyTraining Net, you have one more chance to win! If you are not subscribed yet, you can sign-up quickly and easily at http://bit.ly/SFNetSignUp 

Contest details will be out this week so sign up today!

Work From Home Infographic

Are you or your co-workers working from home? It’s easy to just set yourself up on the sofa and try to work all day but soon your back and neck will ache. Check out the pointers in this FREE Work From Home Infographic. (By the way, infographics can be effective learning tools during training classes. Learn more about how this works in the upcoming eBook from SafetyFUNdamentals).

PS – To download this infographic, click the link above

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

With so many of us spending so much time on Zoom, a creative background can help to get attention and maybe make a boring Zoom meeting just a little bit more interesting. You can download any of these four Zoom backgrounds here. 

You can also create your own at Canva.com

Happy Training!

PS – Do you remember Zoom, the TV show? That was one of my favorites and I can still hear the song in my head 🙂

The Coronavirus Image

A recent article in Popular Mechanics talked about how the coronavirus image we are all so used to seeing by now was created by the CDC and while reading it, I noticed several key facts related to the use of images in safety training.

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Image courtesy of CDC

  • The 3D image shown above of the coronavirus is artificially colored to make it more effective. The artists stated that they chose red on gray to make the image stand out. Have you ever used color to get your message across? I wonder how people would respond to the same image if it was pink and baby blue. Or, if the image was all one color. Would it have the same effect? Doubtful.
  • Before creating the 3D image, the artists spoke with experts to gather information on what the virus looks like up close and learned there are 3 kinds of proteins that do different jobs. Like images used in safety training, it is important to use photos and illustrations that are the same or very similar to the idea you want to get across. Knowing key details about what you are trying to explain, and making sure those key details are included in the image, is very important.
  • The texture was selected to look like orange skin and helps the model seem touchable. Why is it important if the virus seems touchable? Imagine if the model of the coronavirus shown was simply a wooden model that looked like something you might have built back in a high school chemistry class. Making the surface seem touchable, and even something you are familiar with like orange skin, makes the virus more realistic. Realistic photos not only stay in our mind longer but help us to make sense of how this little gray ball with red bumps can do so much harm.
  • If you search for “coronavirus image” you will get over 10 Billion results! This image or something very similar is shown with many of the coronavirus stories published, especially in items published during the beginning of the pandemic.  Just like good communication in safety training, illustrations, or photos of complex ideas are key to getting attention and helping to explain complicated ideas and information. Text with accompanying related images do a much better job of getting key information across.

When you are creating your next safety training materials, make sure you pay attention to the images you use and what message they get across. You may have to create something yourself or hire someone to help you get exactly what you need. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.