Effective safety trainers: what do they have in common?
Edited by by Jim Johnson (D2000safety.com); photos by Terratribes
To be professional trainer always have a feeling about there is always more knowledge we should learn.
A number of our classes focus on developing the skills and knowledge of safety trainers. Most of the focus in these classes is developing the technical knowledge needed to present the information. But we also spend time in our Confined Space Train-the-Trainer and our Fall Protection Competent Person classes talking about effectively presenting this information to students.
All effective trainers (safety and others) share specific attributes. I think these two are the most essential:
• They are passionate about the subject, and
• They care about their students.
If they possess these two qualities, odds are that they are going to be effective presenters.
However, when it comes to safety training, there seems to be a couple of other important ingredients. These include:
Establishing a human connection between the subject matter and the students: Safety and rescue training are distinct in that the knowledge and skills learned can have a huge impact on people's lives and well-being. Effective safety trainers use this fact to engage the students. They do not try to shock the students with gory details or pictures of accidents. They respect the feelings of those affected by accidents.
Recognizing the experts in the room: Whenever I am teaching, I keep in mind that the room is full of experts. They may not know the intricacies of the OSHA code but they definitely know situations or conditions that can create an unsafe environment. Effective safety trainers have ways of getting people to contribute their expertise to the class discussion which creates a much better learning environment for everyone.
Knowing that some problems cannot be resolved in class: Effective trainers understand that some safety issues do not have easy answers (or maybe no answers at all). Nonetheless, the discussion itself (even without a neat resolution) has value in getting the students to analyze the situation and make appropriate choices. If there are issues uncovered during class that should be addressed to management, an effective trainer will provide that information as needed.
Having a good (but too good) imagination: Safety means preparing for the probable and the possible. Possible situations are those that can be identified by knowing the processes involved and using your imagination to think of things that can go wrong. Given the limited time in the classroom, effective trainers know how to focus on the possible situations without wasting time on the possible, but nearly impossible situations.
Staying curious: No matter how many times you have presented a class, you should still be asking 'why' and 'how.' The world is a complicated place and the actions of people make it even more complicated. Spending some time typing key words into a search engine and scrolling through the results can yield substantial benefits and enhance your ability to present the class.
Safety training and helping people get home in one piece can be a very rewarding career. But like any career, how effective you will be depends on your willingness and ability to improve. There are many attributes of an effective safety trainer, but those listed above are some of those that I have useful in my career.