Safety Training is Overrated

Before I get pummeled by every safety manager, trainer, and supervisor, let me explain why safety training is overrated. It is not because safety training isn't important, it's precisely because it is so important that it needs to change.

In virtually every company we work with, safety training is provided on a regular basis. Often it is scheduled months or even a year in advance. Training courses are developed and materials provided. Knowledgeable people go through the course material, sometimes with recommended hands-on applications to ensure that the trainees are following and understand how to apply the training. But then what happens? Generally, what happens is that the next month, a different topic is covered, and no matter how professionally and well done, it is not as effective as it could be. Let me repeat that: No matter how well done, the training is it is not as effective as it could be.

The missing ingredient, in the vast majority of cases, is follow-up. Think of anything you deal with in life to confirm this. When there is no follow-up or follow through, what you have been told or learned fades from memory. What makes training more effective, and enhances learning, is thorough follow-up. The most effective training I have seen is delivered in two parts. The first part is comprehensive training that engages workers and involves hands-on demonstrations with as many people as is feasible. The next month, instead of moving on to the next topic, a review of the previous month's training is conducted. This time, there are more hands-on, more engagement, and quizzes to make sure that everyone understands the topic. The quizzes should be short, specific, and on point for the business. They should not be generic quizzes that are developed to cover a broad range of industries.

One of the benefits of conducting training in this way is the increased effectiveness of the initial training. Because trainees know that the following month they will be engaged and tested on what they have learned in this training, they tend to pay closer attention and, after the training, to inquire if they don't fully understand something that was covered. That level of interest is difficult to achieve if the trainees know that the training is one and done.

So if a company provides training every month, instead of 12 monthly topics, only six will be covered in a year. The value of six very effective trainings far outweighs the value of 12 topics where attention is limited and application is lacking. Safety training is too important to rely one session with no follow-up, no matter how excellent the initial training is. To get full value, follow up and follow through.

Joe Stevens founded Bridge Safety Consultants in 2003 to provide companies and organizations with a resource to help them strengthen their safety culture. The company conducts a safety culture audit, then designs and manages a safety recognition and rewards program, with bilingual monthly safety meetings. To see a typical meeting in action, visit

Posted by Joe Stevens on Jan 15, 2014