Pilot Study Shows Visual Literacy Training Improves Hazard Recognition

“About 90 percent of the information people consume is visual,” said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute. “Taking in that much visual data can lead us to have inattentional blindness – only seeing what we deem important to see but being blind to many other details, like potential hazards. That’s why training workers to better see where those hazards might exist is crucial to workplace health and safety.”

The National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute has released the findings of a pilot study showing that employees who are trained on the concept of visual literacy are able to see workplace hazards that might have otherwise been unnoticed.

In A Second Look: Update on Visual Literacy, the Campbell Institute covers some companies that have trained employees in principles of visual literacy. Within three months, according to the study, 132 issues were identified and 25 new workplace hazards were corrected.

“About 90 percent of the information people consume is visual,” said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute. “Taking in that much visual data can lead us to have inattentional blindness – only seeing what we deem important to see but being blind to many other details, like potential hazards. That’s why training workers to better see where those hazards might exist is crucial to workplace health and safety.”

According to the report, workers who have been trained in visual literacy have identified new kinds of hazards by using the elements and process of visual literacy, leading to improvements and fixes in their workplaces. There also seems to be an increase in the amount of proactive hazard and near-miss reports after workers have received visual literacy training. Workers also show a heightened risk perception and lower risk tolerance, the study reports.

The Institute partnered with the Center of Visual Expertise (COVE) to provide the train-the-trainer workshops for institute members in the pilot study. The Institute and COVE researchers hope to receive more data on Job Safety Analysis from all the sites in the project to test their hypothesis that visual literacy for hazard recognition can result in better quality job safety analyses.

A copy of the report, A Second Look: Update on Visual Literacy, can be downloaded here.

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