If you want your workers to improve their safety behavior while performing highly hazardous jobs, there’s nothing more effective than hands-on safety training, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
APA researchers analyzed results from 113 safety training studies conducted since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act in 1971.
They found that at jobs where the likelihood of death or injury was highest, more engaging training—including behavioral modeling, simulation and hands-on training—was the most effective way to help workers learn about and demonstrate safety on the job.
However, the researchers determined that when employees are performing less dangerous jobs, less engaging training methods, including lectures, reading materials and videos, are equally effective in improving safety outcomes.
Burke says while there’s no question that workers learn from videos, the key point is that when hazards are particularly ominous, the less engaging forms of training (lecture-based, video or distance-based learning) produce only about 50 percent of the knowledge gain and performance improvements realized from highly engaging training.
“In a more interactive training environment, the trainees are faced more acutely with the possible dangers of their job and they are, in turn, more motivated to learn about such dangers and how to avoid them,” says lead study author Dr. Michael Burke.
For example, when hazardous events and exposures are extreme, including fires, explosions, exposure to toxic chemicals or radiation, more interactive training creates a sense of dread and realization of the dangers of the job, says Burke.
“To us, dread—or an understanding of threat vulnerability and uneasiness related to the possible threat—only develops through the employee’s action or seeing someone else in action, discussions with others, and thinking about how to avoid the hazard.”
Burke believes there’s a shortage of hands-on training for workers who could benefit the most from it. He says research has shown that workers who face particularly ominous hazards often are not receiving more training than workers in other types of jobs.
The researchers analyzed a sample of 24,694 workers in 16 countries. The used the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System to sort hazards into categories that reflected the increasing potential for severe illness, injury or death.
The hazards ranged from simple falls to fires, explosions and physical assaults.