Pay Attention! To safety

How to eliminate boredom in safety training

PRACTICAL WELDING TODAY® NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2004

November 9, 2004

By:

Boredom may not appear to be a significant obstacle to a safe workplace, but the problem is that boredom usually translates into poor retention and learning. Workers who are bored by the safety training programs don't learn as well as those who find their training programs interesting and exciting. Failure to retain safety education material can make all the difference on the shop floor or out at the job site.

Those who conduct environmental, health, and safety training for welders and others in welding-related jobs face many challenges in delivering it effectively. Coordinating conflicting schedules, finding quality training materials, and making sure everyone is trained on time are all genuine obstacles to achieving training objectives. Yet one of the most common obstacles to effective safety training is one that many trainers often overlook—boredom.

The truth is that safety training sessions bore many workers. The result of this boredom is that workers fail to retain important safety information. This fact was confirmed in an October 2003 marketing survey of 150 safety professionals across a variety of industries that examined major safety training issues. An earlier version of the survey conducted in 2001 found similar results.

The 2003 survey was conducted over a two-week period. Safety managers from various industries were selected at random from phone lists. Among the topics investigated were the purpose of safety training, trends in training budgets, employee attitudes toward safety training, technology used in safety training, and obstacles to effective safety training.

The results of the survey were insightful in many ways. However, the question dealing with obstacles to effective safety training again provided revealing answers.

What obstacles do you face in conducting effective training?

2003 Survey Results
Boredom
Money
Scheduling
Other
NA
51%
27%
16%
2%
4%

2001 Survey Results
Boredom
Scheduling
Money
Other
NA

52%
22%
12%
8%
6%

Further, safety trainers and managers also were asked to assess workers' attitudes about safety training. Over half said that most workers are bored by the current training formats and programs. In fact, 51 percent said that maintaining worker attention remained the most significant obstacle for effective training overall.

At first boredom may not appear to be a significant obstacle to a safe workplace. Not everything in life can be exciting and fun. Yet the problem is that boredom usually translates to poor retention and learning. Workers who are bored by safety training programs don't learn as well as those who find their training programs interesting and exciting. Failure to retain safety education material can make all the difference on the shop floor or out at the site.

Boredom as a Training Obstacle

Why do many employees find safety training boring? Several contributing factors can be cited.

  1. Many safety program topics are repetitive. Workers often hear the same presentation many times a year concerning a particular safety issue.


  2. Workers sometimes don't appreciate the importance of safety training. Many younger workers adopt an attitude that nothing bad can happen to them. Safety training sessions become dull because these workers believe that the material presented is unimportant to their daily tasks and job functions. Basically, workers tune out the safety message, believing themselves somewhat invincible to injury.


  3. Most of the safety training programs and presentations used, while technically accurate, are anything but entertaining. Videos, CD-ROMS, and other forms of safety training that feature less than captivating images, nondynamic graphics, and dry background music won't grab or hold a worker's attention.

Many safety programs are narrated by a safety expert who merely drones on and on about safe work practices. While the information presented may be completely accurate, the manner of the presentation leaves something to be desired in terms of maintaining interest.

The goal of any safety training effort is to increase awareness of potential risks and hazards and to teach best safety practices to the workers who face these risks on a daily basis. A solid safety training program ultimately will save money and lives as incidents and injuries decrease. Companies experience lower associated costs, higher employee morale, and fewer accident-related absences by using effective safety programs. Therefore, if addressing boredom can lead to better safety training, companies should consider it an investment in lower costs, better worker retention, and long-term profitability.

Solutions

Many methods are available to eliminate or reduce boredom with safety training. Safety training can incorporate accurate, high-quality programs that also are exciting and entertaining. Technically accurate program content delivered in an entertaining style is a winning combination. Workers not only pay attention to such programs, but also better retain what they learn. Repeatedly using fun but educational safety training programs even may cause workers to look forward to safety training sessions.

Adult learning theory demonstrates that features such as music, humor, and live-action footage all hold the attention of the worker viewing the program. Upbeat, recognizable music; footage from real work sites; dynamic imagery and graphics; and even humor all can increase the effectiveness of a safety training program. Closer attention to the program usually means better retention of the material presented.

Another key solution to boredom is to make sure that the presenter's attitude is upbeat and enthusiastic. A safety manager should make sure that workers understand the importance of safety training. The packaging and delivery of essential and relevant safety information make or break the effectiveness of the overall safety education initiative.

Additionally, once workers begin to realize that safety training presentations won't be boring, their overall attitude toward the sessions changes as well. Workers begin to look forward to attending the safety sessions instead of viewing them as a potential nap time.

Pairing Importance With Enthusiasm

Safety professionals should try to address employee boredom with engaging safety training. The best way to do this in safety sessions is to state the importance of the training enthusiastically while using programs and materials that creatively grab and hold workers' attention.

An interested audience is more likely to learn and retain whatever is being presented. This holds true for safety training.

When workers fail to pay attention in safety sessions, they're more likely to experience injury and incidents that result in needless human suffering and financial cost. Effective safety training therefore not only depends on accurate content and up-to-date regulatory information, but also on an engaging and attention-getting presentation. Effective safety training makes every effort to combine the best of both worlds.

Gregory Gronbacher is director of strategic communications for Summit Training Source, 4170 Embassy Drive S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49546, 800-842-0466, ext. 207, gregoryg@safetyontheweb.com, www.safetyontheweb.com.



Gregory Gronbacher

Contributing Writer

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