Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey

Yesterday we talked about acronyms to remember important information in the Safety & Health world.  In particular:


Acronyms are a great way to remember key information and a few examples are shown above.  If you read yesterday’s post, you know I asked if you knew what these acronyms stood for and I promised to share the answers today.  (These are provided at the bottom of this post).

righty tighty.png

As shown in the image above, Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey is a way to help remember which way to turn a screw, nut, bolt, etc. to tighten it (right) or to loosen it (left).

While Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey is an example of a mnemonic, it is not an acronym but an acrostic. The difference is that one is a collection of letters with each letter standing for a word and the other is a phrase or short sentence with the first letter of each word in the sentence referring to something else but they both serve the same purpose – to help people to remember.

Take a look at the following acrostic related to hazmat.

Every Good Lieutenant’s First Standard Operating Procedure Really Can Matter

This acrostic refers to types of hazard classes (Explosives, Gases, Liquids (flammable and combustible),  Flammable Solids, Oxiders, Poisons, Radioactive Products, Corrosives, and Miscellaneous)

Would that acrostic help you to remember?

Do you have any others to share?



Answers to the above acronyms

P.A.S.S. =  Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep (how to use a fire extinguisher)

RECEO-VS = Rescue, Exposure, Confine, Extinguish, Overhaul and Ventilate, Salvage (firefighters guide to making decisions)

RICE = Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (what to do for a sprain)

ABCs of CPR = Airway, Breathing, Compression (steps in cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

CIA-CAT = Compliance, Indicators, Accidents, Complaints, Absenteeism, Turnover (Safety Culture Indicators)

FAST = Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty, Time to call 911 (signs of a stroke)

Note: Nothing in this post is meant to be taken as medical advice and information is only provided as examples of learning techniques. For medical issues, contact a medical professional and/or call 911 in emergencies.



gasp imageIf you have ever attended school in the United States, you can probably make sense of at least one of these crazy words. (But probably not the first one – GASP – unless you have ever had golf lessons with Lou Ruina. Lou taught me to think about GASP every time I get ready to hit a ball – Grasp, Alignment, Stance and Posture). PEDMAS is how many children are taught the order of operations in math, Roy G. Biv stands for colors in a rainbow of course and HOMES help people to remember the names of the Great Lakes. Why do we remember these things many, many years after we learn them? Mnemonics work because they help us provide meaning and structure to seemingly unrelated words.  They help us to organize information in a way that specifically helps us to remember. Mnemonics often involve visualizations which further helps us to recall specific information.  Look at the acronyms above. Do they create a picture in your mind?

There are many memory joggers available to us in our day to day lives other than those mentioned above. Memory aids can be external, like a checklist, or internal, like an acronym. If something needs to be remembered during an emergency situation or while working out on the job floor or construction site, which do you think is better?

Fortunately, there are also a few acronyms commonly used in the safety world. Do you know these? (Answers will be shared tomorrow)







Have you made up any of your own? If so, please share in the comments below.



One way athletes are often taught to learn a new skill is by breaking it down into small chunks and then perfecting each of these steps.  In The Little Book of Talent, Daniel Coyle writes “Chunks are to skill what letters of the alphabet are to language. Alone, each is nearly useless, but when combined into bigger chunks (words), and … combined into still bigger things (sentences, paragraphs), they can build something complex and beautiful.”

Chunking is one way to help trainees to remember more. (See my earlier post on “Reducing” for more). If you are training a class how to do something, think about how you could break down (chunk) each part of the act and focus on each step separately. Let’s take an easy example – how to use a fire extinguisher (from OSHA’s website)

The first step shown is to select the appropriate screenshot_513.png

To chunk down this instruction, you could concentrate on the 4 steps listed as separate training “chunks.”

Pull the Pin – Can you set up a situation where trainees get to actually break the tamper seal and pull the pin? Is there anything else you assume they should know – or anything that you believe to be “common sense” but might need special reinforcement?

Aim – Can you do a demonstration that shows what happens when you aim at the base and when you aim elsewhere?  Can the trainees practice? How far away should you stand? What is a realistic situation for a workplace fire in your facility? It most certainly won’t look like the bonfire shown in the OSHA image. Will it be in a trashcan? If so, how do you aim at the base if you can’t see the base? When should a trainee attempt to put the fire out with the extinguisher and  when should they leave the area? (that question gives me an idea for a new training activity  – let me know if you want to see what I come up with). Think how you can break this step down to make the training as specific, realistic and applicable to the trainees’ work environment as possible.

Squeeze  – How hard does the handle need to be squeezed? How long? What if someone doesn’t have great hand strength? Do you need to squeeze fast or slow? Do you fingers go on top or bottom of the handle? What happens with it begins discharging? Is it easier or more difficult to squeeze the handle? What if they are wearing gloves? Is it more difficult? Can you have the trainees practice?

Sweep – How long and how fast do you sweep from side to side? How long will the extinguisher last? How will you know how long it will last before you use it? What should you do if the extinguisher runs out before the fire is out?  If the fire appears out, how long do you need to watch it? Should you throw water on it or do anything else after the fire is gone?

Do you get the idea? Each step in a relatively simple set of instructions can be broken down into a mini-topic. If you can’t see trainees face-to-face on consecutive days or weeks to cover each mini-topic (while referencing what was previous learned) maybe you could send out for emails or text messages with each focusing on one of the steps.

Four simple steps might seem just like four simple steps but as you can see by the random questions each step generated above, there could be a lot of questions zooming around your trainees head. If you don’t talk about actual fire possibilities in your workplace and specific conditions and challenges that might come with those fires, the training information will not stick so with every chunk you are able to create, make sure to integrate the real-world information your trainees need to know.


What Will You Learn This Week?

Copy of The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand

You have probably heard the phrase (or been told) “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This is one part of 4 basic stages of competence according to something called the Competence Hierarchy. Simply put, we either not know what we don’t know;  Are aware of what we do not know or realize there are gaps in our knowledge in that area; Know and are confident that we know something; or are so confident and competent in an area that we don’t even think about it or realize that we have mastered it.

I love this quote because to me, it means we start learning as soon as we realize we don’t understand something. If I attend a non-EHS conference and a word or concept totally foreign to me is discussed with ease by those around me, this is truly the first step in learning because knowing I do not understand something is the first step for me to learn something new.  Even if it starts with a simple Google of the term, that is the first step in making sense of new information.

In the world of safety and health, some people are experts in construction and others are experts in hospital safety regulations while others could talk for hours about behavioral safety or risk management. Safety professionals are not expected to know everything but it’s key to realize when we don’t know what we don’t know and take steps to at least move to the second stage described above – becoming aware of what we don’t know.

badge book coverIn the Safety Trainer’s Badge Book I created a few years ago, I listed 50 different safety training skills. (This is a free download on the SafetyFUNdamentals website).  If you glance at the badges, try to think if you know the basics about that badge topic. Next, read through the “badge requirements” and see if there is anything you don’t know. Now you “know what you don’t know” and can begin to work towards knowledge in that area.  As Safety Professionals, especially those trying to maintain certifications, it can be difficult to know where to focus our continuing education efforts and the first step is realizing what we don’t know.

Safety Training Recipe Kit

Yesterday, we talked about cake mixes and how by giving others the opportunity to personalize something off-the-shelf and make it their own, they are more likely to be convinced of its greatness.

How can you get those you work with, up and down the career ladder, to put their own touches on the finished product?

One way to create a personalized training class is to think of presenting something similar to a set menu you would see at a restaurant.  Pick one item from the appetizers section, one item from the main course offerings, two sides dishes and one of the dessert options. Of course all of the menu items are great but you get to personally put together your own perfect meal when you get to pick exactly what’s best for you. Here is an example of a menu you could present:

Safety Training menuOf course this is completely flexible and you can choose from many more options in each section but this should give you some ideas. Like any balanced meal, you also wouldn’t want your training class to consist of 5 desserts and no main course so encourage selections from each area.

When it comes the images and illustrations in your training content, this is one of the easiest places to let others add their own touches, or even as a way for you as a safety trainer to use off the shelf materials and customize them for your needs If you buy prepared presentations, make sure you can edit them. Nothing will turn off a trainee faster than showing them something that doesn’t apply to their particular situation. (See the earlier post on “Real World training” for more information). Location names, photos, images, procedures and anything else specific to your place of work should be included and not just generic versions of those items. If you absolutely must use slides you cannot edit, consider adding a few customized slides to the beginning and end. (Kind of like being given the cake and using your skills and materials to customize it). If you must show an off-the-shelf video, stop the video at key points and either show corresponding slides specific to your workplace that help the trainees to make the connection with what they are seeing on the video to what actually occurs in their day to day job or open a discussion about what they just saw and how it applies to them.

Do you use off the shelf training materials? If so, how to you make them your own?

Water and Eggs

make cakeJust add water and two eggs, stir and voilà! You have a “homemade” cake! Of course it tastes better than a store bought cake because only YOU could add that specific amount of water exactly the way you did or select and crack the two perfect eggs and of course no one else can stir that batter with the same amount of love that you can.

When instant cake mixes that required the addition of eggs first came on the market they water and eggswere a huge hit, not only because they tasted better than the original cake mixes that included powdered eggs but because it gave the cook more of a way to contribute to the success of the cake. Because the steps involved in making a cake mix were made simpler, the cook could concentrate on adding her own creative touches such as glazes, fancy decorations, and original fillings.  While many people believe that the cake mixes that required adding water and eggs were a hit because the cook felt like the cake was actually their own creation now, the success was really due to the extra time the mix provided to the housewife* to personalize it and make it her* own.

How can you make your safety programs similar to the “just add water and eggs” cake mixes? People tend to support projects and programs that they themselves created and somehow made “their own.” If you personally developed a new program and delivered it to your workforce, they will be less likely to be as excited as you are about it. It’s your baby and of course you love it.  How can you get your workforce or management to “add the water and eggs”? If you are responsible for multiple sites, can you offer a way for the various locations to make their own contributions? If they feel like they were part of the finished product, they will of course think it is better and are more likely to support it and be excited about implementing it.

Do you do this already or have some ideas for giving management, co-workers, union leaders, or other facility locations the opportunity to help create or improve upon your training content? Please share them in the comments section. Otherwise, check back tomorrow for the second part of this post where I will give you a few ideas.


 *I am not writing “housewife” or “her” because I believe that only women make cakes but back when the new “just add water and egg” mixes became popular (around 1950), this was likely the case.