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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Safety Training Design

Some interesting discussions are going on in the Big Question for February The Learning Circuits Blog: Instructional Design - If - When - How Much. I thought I'd take a cut at an answer based on something we've been involved with recent - the design of safety training. This includes topics like driver safety, defensive driving, following rules, workplace safety, OSHA, operating machinery, wrist safety, food preparation, kitchen safety, first aid, fire, etc. There are striking similarities to most of the topics:
  • Most of the core information is already known by the learner. They probably already know the 3 second following safety rule.
  • There is likely content that is known, but ignored. Even though they know they should drive their truck 3 seconds behind the car in front, they don't because it feels like you are losing a lot of time when someone cuts in front of you and you have to slow down to allow 3 seconds again. (Note: it actually doesn't cost much time, but it does feel like it ... especially here in Los Angeles.).
  • Performers need consistent reinforcement of these messages.
The reality is that much of the training on these kinds of topics is rather boring and mundane because it assumes that its purpose is to teach the person the information in the first place.

This is where design comes in ... We have to look at the larger picture and figure out what is going to make sense.

The answer we commonly come out with is a blended solution that involves various touch points including activities for managers, posters and a series of small (15 minutes or less) eLearning pieces that focus on reminding, reinforcing and on likely bad habits. Content around bad habits addresses things like - how much does it really cost you to let the person cut in front? On most trips it is almost nothing. It's almost all perception. Yes, there are lots of studies. And, in fact, stressing about it is bad for you. Be cool, follow the 3 second rule.

Corney, yes. But possibly very effective at attacking the problem. By the way, they already know the 3-second rule.

So, what does this case of Safety Training Design have to do with Instructional Design - If - When - How Much?

The recent post by Gary Hegenbart - Why Bother with Instructional Design? Gary tells us:
For eLearning I think careful planning is required, especially for self-paced courses. For classroom training, and maybe even live online training, almost no ID is needed. Huh? An instructional designer saying you don’t need instructional design? Yep, you need course developers not instructional designers.

In the past year I’ve spent a lot of time working on instructor-led training for both in-person classes and live online classes. What I’ve found is that no matter how much work I do two things are true:

  • The instructor will always do things their way.
  • Students don’t care about instructional design.
Wow, I don't really buy these arguments. I don't disagree that the instructor will take liberties with the instructional design. And Gary later makes the point that you need a good instructor - agreed. However, they should be given a decent road map. And "students don't care" - hogwash. If the safety training design was for manager delivered training, would you want to tell the managers to teach the three second rule or would you want them to concentrate on the real point - why people ignore the rule even though they know it. Would you want them to try to do it all in one shot, or over time. Design is needed here. And you often see really poor design around exactly this kind of topic.

So, Gary's argument around this topic don't hold water for me. I definitely need some level of instructional design or my training is going to be focused on the wrong things.

What's interesting about the design of safety training is that it feels like a topic where you would need very little ID. After all, you can quickly find a list of the topics that go under something like driver safety. You'd find out that you need to teach the 3 second following rule. And you quickly jump onto a really boring (since the learner already knows the information) course.

To me, this is where Common Sense and Intuition is Not Enough around when, if and how much instructional design is needed. Common sense and intuition is why there's so much really horrible safety training eLearning in the world today.


Anonymous said...

Can you recommend any books within Safety Training Design?

AndrewJerkins said...
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