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8 Tips for Safety Trainers

Rethinking Traditional Safety Management Paradigms at a National Safety Council event

This post is from Gary A. Higbee, one of SafeStart’s senior consultants and the co-author of Inside Out. Learn more about Gary’s many accomplishments in the safety industry and find a selection of his many articles at

Safety trainers have an important but difficult job. This is especially true when they’re also tasked with championing a safety initiative like SafeStart. A lot of trainers have little or no formal training. When we conduct our train-the-trainer workshops we do our best to mentor every future trainer, and almost everyone leaves the three-day sessions excited and anxious to get started.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to teach them everything there is to know about conducting training sessions, and there is still some learning and practice required after the workshop is over.

Any safety trainer can improve their presentation skills with these eight tips.

  1. Practice going through your presentation material (like the PowerPoint or handouts) in the training room just like you would on training day. Click through each slide and practice reading the slide out loud, and think about what you’ll say as you pass out any print material. A few things to note:
    a. Listen to your words and your voice’s inflection.  Look for opportunities to paraphrase but limit embellishment.
    b. Think about where you will stand during the training.
    c. Decide how much movement is appropriate.  Do not pace around the room just to be moving, but move with purpose toward the screen to emphasize an important point when necessary.
    d. Practice visually scanning the room as you talk.
  2. Read the material prior to training so you can make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. Even after all these years, I still take workbooks out and review them prior to training.  It also allows you the time to observe the class while they read any printed material. Remember that many trainees may not have been in a classroom setting for years so work to make it interesting.
  3. Be prepared to train and be confident.  You need to be in the training room with enough time to set up, test the videos and sound, and make any changes to seating arrangements.  Being on time also means being early enough to ensure you are ready to go and can greet people as they come into the room.  This will relax them and you.
  4. Cover everything you are supposed to.  Cutting anything out really hurts the effectiveness of safety training. For SafeStart, the PowerPoint slides, video stories, Larry’s videos, workbooks and storytelling are all essential elements. Work with other trainers to ensure you are covering what needs to be covered. It’s very costly for people to take time out of the workplace so do everything you can to respect management’s commitment to training and finish within the allotted time, but don’t shorten the training to get people back to work sooner either.
  5. Storytelling is an important part of training but the stories you tell have to match the content of the training.  Make sure your stories are true and consider using pictures or drawings to help illustrate it.  Your stories do not have to be spectacular—they just need to make a point to demonstrate the underlying message in the training.
  6. Trainers have to believe in and practice the skills they’re teaching. When it comes to SafeStart, I’ve noticed that trainers’ stories and training sessions tend to lack conviction unless they are actually practicing skills on their own. For any SafeStart trainers out there, here are some ways to get better at SafeStart outside the training room:
    a. Actively analyze any near misses or close calls you have and be able to discuss what you changed as a result.b. Work on a habit to improve your own safety, performance and quality.  Be able to explain how the new habit is helping you.
    c. Be able to provide an example of when you self-triggered. You can also think about a time you did not self-trigger and wished you had.
    d. Be able to explain what SafeStart means to you and why you are excited to share it with others.
  7. Team teach with another trainer until you build your confidence and have established a standard preparation routine. (For SafeStart training, the other trainer must also be certified.)
  8. Have fun! Training is an exciting challenge and it gives you a chance to make a big difference in other people’s lives.

These tips are focused on classroom training but many of them apply to other safety presentations like toolbox talks or group safety meetings. If you’re having trouble following these steps, pick one to work on and once you’ve mastered it then move on to the next one. Happy training!

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