Companies spend a great amount of money and time teaching their employees about wearing personal protective equipment and following safe operating procedures. So why is it that employees don't apply their knowledge of safe operating procedures and do not utilize their personal protective equipment?

Our research shows that there are two primary causes of this breakdown in safety:

  1. boring and inadequate training

  2. unsafe attitudes and behaviors.

Boring and inadequate training can be characterized by a supervisor showing an old lockout/tagout video and having attendees sign the attendance sheet as they leave. Here is what's wrong with this approach:

  1. old and outdated videos are boring

  2. nothing is done to involve the audience

  3. no exercises are used

  4. case studies are not utilized

  5. no time is allowed for practice and feedback

  6. no interactive problem solving process is involved.

By contrast, enlightened companies use a variety of stimulating and interesting approaches to produce more effective training. Here are some tips to get you started on the road from knowing to doing.

  1. Use a variety of visual aids

    • current videos

    • flip charts

    • slide presentations

    • overheads

  2. Involve the audience

    • use problem solving processes.

    • use case studies.

    • use exercises

    • use practice and feedback.

  3. Have a knowledgeable operator demonstrate how the specific training can be applied at your site.

This approach is highly effective, easy to implement and produces a significantly higher retention than the "watch the video and sign the sheet" method. There is an old axiom that states:

  • What I hear I forget.

  • What I see I remember.

  • What I do I own.

The second step in the "Knowing to Doing" process is more difficult because it involves changing unsafe attitudes and behavior which is a major cultural issue.

What do we mean by knowing?

By "knowing", we mean the mandatory, technical and general training that you currently provide. By improving the training as stated above, you stand a better chance of getting the information to the employee.

Figure (available in full paper)

Unfortunately you can't get there (DOING) from here (KNOWING).

But what gets in the way of "doing"? By "doing", we mean wearing the PPE, following the procedures, staying focused and taking responsibility.

There are a variety of barriers that get in the way.

A major hurdle is the stress barrier. The number of employees "who worry frequently about being laid off" has jumped over 100% from 1988 to 1995. The number of employees "who worry about their companies' future" has increased by 50%.

When employees are worried about basic issues such as employment or their company's future, a great deal of stress occurs around paying mortgages, providing for children's' education and putting food on the table. The result is deep seated fear and distrust throughout the workplace.

These negative developments produce stress and distraction for workers. Surprisingly enough, even positive changes can have the same effect.

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