Over the last couple of years, I've been called on to provide a few behavioral safety programs – not because I consider myself a safety expert but because I've made the case that ethics are fundamentally intertwined with safety promotion concepts. (The tie-in being that both speak to how folks can learn to do the right thing rather than simply what is easy or convenient at the time.
Here's what I've learned as a relative outsider to the field of behavioral safety training… It's borrrrrrring! Not because it needs to be. In fact, it needs to not be boring so that individuals and entire companies alike will get engaged and enthusiastic about the process of promoting safety.
Yet, the programs I've seen are remarkably like the business-world ethics programs in which I often find myself. They are dry, academic, coma-inducing affairs that provide information which is difficult to actually apply. Now granted, I've been in precious few safety programs so there is always the chance that my observations are the result of sampling error. In fact, I'm certainly hoping so.
If my observations are an accurate image of the norm, though, it is both sad and frightening. Companies unable to create a culture of safety not only increase the illness and injury risk to their employees but to the public they serve as well.
The solution is actually pretty simple, it seems to me – at least from a conceptual standpoint. The first requirement is for companies to focus more on developing cultures of safety than on simply pounding the rules into employees' heads. There are plenty of great examples out there of how to do that. Just observe how any number of truly values-driven businesses do their stuff. The second requirement – and this should be the simpler of the two – is to create safety training programs that are unforgettable, interactive, instructive experiences. They don't necessarily need to be fun though that has considerable advantages. Fun or not, though, they need to be both experiential and engaging – not yet another PowerPoint program droned from the front of the room. Not sure how to do that? Bring in someone who can! The costs for that will pay off many times over in increased employee engagement and improved safety. (It seems like a no-brainer in my mind but maybe that's just me…)
Once we can get employees truly engaged in their learning about safety promotion, it will be a safer world not just for them but for all of us who come into their working environment.