Even the newest of safety trainers know visual aids are an important part of safety training. When trainees are illiterate or have English as a second-language, graphics and photos are even more important. Image based communication has been growing in popularity although images have always been an important part of communication – even the cavemen drew pictures! Today, images are used to communicate everywhere and often as a primary method of communication. Images are more popular than ever. Some of the fastest growing social media applications are image based. Pinterest® and Instagram® are just two examples. To understand why this is so, consider the following. In 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that we now create more information in two days than we created from the dawn of man up until 2003. With so much information readily available to all of us, you can see why it is so hard to get people's attention – and to get them to remember what they have heard or seen. As the adage goes, "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" and using visuals can greatly add to your message. If someone has the choice to look at an image in an effort to gain understanding of something, or read a paragraph or more of text, the visual option will be much more inviting.
Visual aids are an effective means to express and analyze complexity in ways that words alone cannot. (Chambers) Visuals help distribute the load since verbal and visual information is believed to be processed differently by the brain so by effectively using both visuals and lecture you can help trainees avoid being overwhelmed by providing them with various ways to digest the information. (Dirksen)
Visuals are also important because we are often unable to produce detailed and accurate descriptions. Language differences can make this more difficult. Additionally, describing something accurately might require specialized vocabulary (technical jargon) that can further confuse trainees. When we share information only through words, we risk losing information or erroneous unclear information being delivered and the potential consequences grow exponentially.
What happens in safety training? Often the training class is delivered verbally and hopefully, some type of visual aid is also used. This may be a video, slides with graphics or a flipchart. It is frequently assumed that students already know or remember specific information. The assumption the trainee already knows something specific can result in information not being given at all.