OSHA says you have to train employees in everything from using PPE to recognizing chemical hazards to taking emergency action. They tell you what the content of training should be, but they don’t tell you how to conduct training so that you capture your employees’ interest and attention and get your important safety and health messages across.
And, after all, that’s a critical part of any training session. If you don’t do that, one or more of your workers who wasn’t paying attention could walk out of a safety meeting and right into an accident.
Powered-up safety training is about effective communication. Here are 10 essential communication tips that can help make your safety meetings and messages more compelling:
- Use everyday language. When you have to include technical terms, explain what they mean, and write them on a board or flip chart so that employees can see the words as well as hear them.
- Take education and language proficiency into account. An employer must instruct its employees using both a language and vocabulary that the employees can understand. For example, if an employee does not speak or comprehend English, instruction must be provided in a language the employee can understand. Similarly, if the employee’s vocabulary is limited, the training must account for that limitation.
- Keep your tone warm and friendly. Talk normally. Don’t lecture.
- Maintain a comfortable pace and moderate volume. Don’t speed through or drag out your words. Speak loudly enough to be heard in the back row, but don’t shout.
- Speak with firmness and conviction. Let your tone say that you believe what you’re saying is important. Remember, you’re trying to sell employees on the importance of the safety information you are communicating.
- Be enthusiastic. Use your voice and body language to show you are glad you have the opportunity to talk about an important safety topic. If you seem bored or indifferent—or as if you’d rather be somewhere else—trainees will be, too.
- Create team spirit. Use words like “we” and “our” rather than “the company,” “management,” and “employees,” whenever possible. Position safety as a group objective that everyone pursues together.
- Make eye contact. Very important! Don’t just read your notes. Look up and around the group as you talk. Try to make eye contact with each trainee several times during the session.
- Combine words with demonstrations. Point to the machine guard or container label. Show how to lift properly. Demonstrate the proper technique for fit testing a respirator.
- Stay focused. Keep on topic and on-track to ensure that you have time to cover your content and to prevent confusion about the real point of the training session.
Why It Matters
- Content is great, but if it’s not transferred and retained, it is of no use to your employees.
- To be an effective trainer, you may need to spend as much time preparing your delivery as you do preparing your content.
- Contrary to the old cliché, those who can, teach. In other words, teaching is a skill unto itself, so make sure you develop your training skills.