Safety is notoriously dull. Nobody is excited to attend safety meetings; most barely pay attention, and very little learning occurs. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
While we don’t have a ton of control over safety content, we can fix how we teach it. Here are five practical ways to make safety more interesting so your crews learn something:
1. Fix Your Delivery
There will be times that the traditional "lecture-style" safety training is unavoidable. However, almost everyone will zone out if this is your delivery style for more than 10 minutes or so.
Instead, use point-form notes, or on PowerPoint, just an image, to cue yourself on what you wish to discuss. Then speak candidly about the topic.
You can even include questions in this approach. Refrain from content questions that put people on the spot, and aim to start a conversation like you would with a friend.
For example, don’t ask someone to list the components of a fall protection system; instead, ask them about a close call when they were pleased they had it on.
The engagement you seek doesn't have to be high-level learning; it just has to keep your workers focused, so they listen when it becomes essential. Use the stories they tell you to bridge into teaching the key elements of your lesson.
2. Invite Guest Speakers
Inviting various speakers is a welcome change for your workers, bringing with it new stories and perspectives.
Be creative and involve your community. The guests don’t have to provide the actual safety content; they are simply a jumping-off place for the conversation you will lead afterward.
You could have an emergency room doctor come in and talk about head trauma, a police officer to go over distracted driving or someone who has experienced a workplace accident to tell their story.
You can even use your in-house knowledge base by having a staff member open the meeting with a personal anecdote.
3. Gamify It
Many of us grew up playing video games. Remember that feeling you had when you beat the boss of a level, achieved a high score, or unlocked a new power or weapon for your character? That’s what gamification is all about—creating that feeling within non-gaming situations.
You could create a system that hands out points based on proper safety behavior or completing safety tasks and then reward a weekly or monthly winner.
You could even post a leaderboard in your shop to spark a little healthy competition among co-workers.
4. Add Teaching Aids
Add images, videos and graphs to your training. Display them on a screen or provide them as a handout and have your workers break into small groups to evaluate them or discuss a question.
You will get more responses from the larger group if you have first allowed them to test out their answers and receive validation from three or four peers.
5. Make It Hands-On
Get your participants physically up and moving, trying out what you are teaching. Most roofers are kinesthetic learners, so this is the ideal learning environment for them.
Try and avoid long lines of people waiting to try something, allowing everyone to disengage. Instead, set up multiple stations, either of the same activity—or even better—numerous activities that the participants rotate through in small groups.
If your activity can’t accommodate a large number of people, you can still get one or two to volunteer. For example, there may not be time to have every single participant set up and adequately tie off an extension ladder, but you could have one or two do it as a demonstration.
Anything that brings your lesson to life is going to be beneficial to the majority of your group.
Before you deliver your next safety training session, meeting or weekly toolbox talk, take a few minutes to consider applying one of these techniques, and you are sure to find better engagement from your crews.
Sue Drummond knows that learning new technology can be intimidating and overwhelming sometimes. That's exactly why her role at Harness Software as a customer success manager is to teach, guide and customize that fear away. She has worked at multiple roofing companies and is passionate about helping them improve their safety programs. She is a mom to three boys and lives near Toronto, Canada.