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Why You Need More Than Just Safety Expertise to Teach Safety

Safety training in the classroom

There’s nothing more frustrating than when a layman comes in and declares they can easily do your job.  

On the one hand, it speaks volumes to how well you’ve done your job because you’ve made it appear that anyone can do it, but on the other hand it can be a bit insulting that they haven’t considered all of the hard work that went into your success.

Safety training is not just a matter of going through the motions to check off a box on a regulatory list—it’s about delivering information that will make employees safer. Obviously, you need safety expertise to be able to teach people about safety. And anyone who has in-depth knowledge of safety quite likely has the capacity to find resources, create presentations and communicate their safety knowledge to workers. But because of the amount of time you need to devote to gaining and maintaining that level of safety knowledge, it’s also quite likely that expertise in other areas may not be nearly as high. When it comes to safety training, for obvious reasons, you want to get it right. But you can’t be a master at everything, so here are a few ways to augment your training expertise to help you be a better trainer. 

Have a little help from your friends

Most people are specialists in one or two areas, not 10, so it makes a lot of sense to engage a team in creating effective learning initiatives. Your colleagues may have strengths that you can leverage, or you may have friends or other connections outside of work you could lean on (and quite likely, they would love the opportunity to utilize your expertise for their own benefit) for advice, suggestions and additional perspectives on training issues. 

Learning and development expertise

Effective learning and development comes from people who understand the value of up-to-date adult learning techniques. An instructional designer will understand the methodologies required to effectively deliver your information. The best way to build on your existing knowledge is through a mix of different exercises and activities. No matter what type of training you set out to do, whether it’s classroom-based, virtual, or blended, having someone who understands adult learning design can make it better. These concepts aren’t just about designing training that looks good—you can use them to enhance the success of the learning process.

Training delivery expertise

Training that has great information can still be lost on the audience if the presenter doesn’t factor in the delivery. A monotone voice can cause the listener to tune out, and a lack of eye contact sends the message that the training is obligatory, not specifically important for each participant (which causes a complete disengagement). Proper delivery skills, including appropriate volume, pacing, word choice, and even body language, can be a real difference-maker in your safety training sessions. 

Communication (storytelling, writing) expertise

The way in which training is communicated also requires an expert’s touch. Storytelling is a great way to get the audience to visualize the point you are trying to make. An effective story establishes a connection with the listener—maybe they’ve been in a similar situation or (if the story is told right) they could see themselves being in a similar predicament. Stories and effective writing are useful teaching tools. An expert communicator knows how to use a story to help achieve a learning objective, make it descriptive enough to draw the listener in, and use interesting language or new metaphors to make the story memorable.

Behavioral and human factor insights

When it comes to safety training, having behavioral and human factors insights is essential. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that human error is responsible for 94% of all motor vehicle accidents. Many people believe that human factors training is common sense. But if that were the case, why are there still so many accidents attributed to human error? Knowing how to address these issues in training—or bringing in experts who do—can go a long way toward reducing injuries and augmenting your existing safety training.

Leadership training

When embarking on safety training, leadership skills can help deliver your safety message—even to those over whom you have little direct authority. Leadership training can provide communication skills necessary to engage employees. It can also improve the ability to identify safety issues, leading indicators, and ultimately improve safety outcomes for the entire organization. This isn’t something you necessarily need to be an expert in but leadership training will certainly improve your safety skills and training game.

There is a myriad of expertise needed to achieve effective safety training, and this post only touches on a few areas. There’s also technical (video production) expertise, graphic design expertise, assessment and change management expertise, not to mention delving deeper into a specific topic for which the levels of expertise may vary. You can improve in as many areas as you’d like, but if you’re looking to make the most of limited time for training improvement, consider honing your skills and knowledge with the suggestions above or investigate third-party consulting and training solutions that leverage a wide range of expertise. Knowing the values shared in the facility can also go a long way to making your audience more comfortable (i.e., wearing masks or extra PPE in situations where previously PPE wasn’t as strongly thought of like at your desk).

It can be difficult to secure time and budget for an off-the-shelf or custom solution but the cost is minimal in comparison to hiring a team of in-house experts. And the time and experience you’re getting from partners like the National Safety Council, ISO industry standards or SafeStart can provide a step-change in performance that would otherwise take years to develop yourself in-house.


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