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Injecting entertainment into annual safety retraining


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While some shift to computer-based education, others focus on revamping traditional training

Annual retraining can be a chore for employees, as well as the safety officer saddled with the responsibility. As a result, training sometimes consists of employees sleeping in front of the same old training video.

But a few simple adjustments to your education program can rouse employees and make retraining entertaining for everyone, while providing useful reminders of employee safety.

Computer-based training

These days, everything is computer-based. E-mail has all but replaced snail mail, presentations are now on PowerPoint, and most of the resources you need are accessible simply by clicking a mouse.

Similar to the previous examples, annual safety training used to be a lecture or a presentation, but it’s now beginning to make a transition to the monitor as well.

“I researched this for about six months,” says Terry Jo Gile, MT(ASCP), MA Ed, president of The Safety Lady, LLC, in North Fort Myers, FL. “The bottom line is safety training is boring. You need to make it fun and interesting. Because safety officers are usually doing it on a part-time basis, they need to invest in some tools that can make that job interesting as well as fun for their colleagues.”

Gile has designed and developed several computer-based games that will meet the training requirements for many Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) subjects. She recently released a bloodborne pathogens training program in a format similar to the game show Jeopardy. At the end of May, she released a similar program for shipping infectious and biological substances, and in the coming months, she plans to release programs on chemical hygiene, ergonomics, and infection control.

The games will have a variety of formats similar to popular game shows such as Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and Family Feud. They can be used in a team format to train multiple people at once, Gile says. The idea behind computer-based training is that it’s quick and easy to administer, but it also provides entertainment for an otherwise bland lecture subject.

Fulfilling requirements

The games also fulfill OSHA requirements, particularly those associated with bloodborne pathogens training, which requires a trained expert to be available for a live question-and-answer period (see “Special considerations for bloodborne pathogens training” below).

“The way I envision these games is [employees] already know the material, all you are doing is checking to make sure they still remember it,” says Gile. “It doesn’t mean that they can’t go and ask somebody a question. And especially if you do it as a team activity, you are going to have interaction with the instructor.”

These programs should serve to clear up any questions and further reinforce standards in an entertaining and informative way.

“Let’s say I’ve worked in the lab for 10 years,” Gile explains. “I’ve been under the [bloodborne pathogens] standard forever, this is just a different way to test competency and knowledge over stuff they know and do every day.”

Retaining information

Gile also found that the entertainment factor has elicited impressive retention. She points to her administrative assistant, who helped her create the games but has no laboratory safety experience. After writing and testing the program for the past few months, she was able to walk into a real laboratory and identify three OSHA violations.

“Her background is retail and computers,” says Gile. “She knows nothing about the lab, and this was the first lab she had been in. So we know it works.”

The computer games also promote accountability that you won’t find by showing the same video or giving the same lecture every year because it forces employees to engage in the material. Videos allow employees to sleep or text through a presentation and receive credit simply for being there.

“They just have to occupy the seat and sign the sign-in sheet,” Gile says. “There is no accountability whether they know anything or not. At least with the game, it keeps them engaged and there is a little bit of accountability.”

Hands-on training

On the other hand, many facilities aren’t quite ready to hand over their training regimen to a computer. However, the same rule still applies: Making the training fun and interactive elicits the best response from staff members.

Kathy Rooker, safety officer and owner of Columbus Healthcare and Safety Consultants in Canal Winchester, OH, travels all over the state and trains staff members in person. “They love it because I am right there and I get everybody at the same time,” says Rooker. “We joke around and we laugh, and I give examples of things I’ve seen. I’m just a real advocate for having it done in person.”

Rooker supports a hands-on training method that holds employees accountable for knowing OSHA regulations. For example, she asks employees to come to the front of the room, put on gloves, and stick their hands in a bowl of ketchup. Then she tells them to take the gloves off as though the ketchup were infected blood.

To teach fire safety, Rooker gets permission from the local fire department to set a wastepaper basket on fire and then have an employee put it out with a fire extinguisher. Other times, she’ll bring needles with her and have someone demonstrate how to use the safety function.

“I usually try to do something interactive,” Rooker says. “Especially in front of a big crowd because those are the crowds you are going to lose the most.”

Regardless of whether she is conducting a PowerPoint presentation for a larger facility or a small training session at a doctor’s office, Rooker is careful not to simply read straight from a script because people will immediately tune out.

“I never read the slide verbatim,” Rooker says. “Nobody’s going to listen to you. You have to know the material and talk about it. If you have a trainer that is just going to read monologues, that is horrible.”

Editor’s note: Rooker and Gile are bloggers on OSHA Healthcare Advisor. Log on to read their safety advice at www.oshahealthcareadvisor.com.