The wide variety in today’s workforce can present a challenge when it’s time for safety training. To do an effective job, take these factors into account:
- Age. Younger workers might have trouble taking the safety aspect of their jobs seriously. Older workers might feel they already know it all and tune you out. Make it clear to trainees that this is important to all of them, perhaps using dramatic examples of safety failures involving different age groups.
- English comprehension. Many people won’t admit they can’t read or understand English. Be alert to your workers’ ability — or inability — to understand written instructions and to comprehend English. A recent OSHA enforcement memorandum directed at protecting non-English speaking workers from workplace hazards requires compliance officers to verify that workers receive training in a language they understand. If you don’t speak the workers native language, you might want to involve an additional meeting leader who does.
- Educational level. If your workers have a wide range of educational backgrounds, your task becomes more complicated. Use an approach that gets the message across to the less educated without being so simplistic that it turns off other workers. Consider using demonstration and practice rather than reading and lectures. – and employ words and concepts that all trainees can understand.
- Experience with products, processes, and technology. If you’re training relatively inexperienced workers, take a step-by-step approach and limit each meeting to a narrow topic area. Otherwise, you’ll overload participants. Although experienced workers will more readily understand your references to equipment and procedures, because they’re also more likely to resist changes in the way they work, sell them on safety both in terms of their own health and regulatory requirements.
- Tolerance for length and frequency of meetings. The length of your workers’ attention and concentration span will determine how often you can have safety meetings and how long they can last. The format is also a factor in determining meeting length. People can’t usually sit and concentrate as long for lectures as for videos or programs that involve them directly.
- Extent of prior safety training. The more training workers have received, the easier each subsequent meeting becomes. Once workers understand certain safety basics and incorporate them into their jobs it becomes easier to add new cautions and procedures. Skip the preliminaries and some of the “safety sell” and get right to the specifics of your meeting.
- Attitudes toward work and management. If some workers are hostile to you, the company, their jobs, and/or the meeting topic, safety meetings can be stressful. Face up to this problem at the beginning of the session by encouraging workers to express their feelings and ask them to try to keep an open mind. Stress the fact that safety training will benefit them by making accidents and injuries less likely.