This is from my emailed daily safety brief:

Feature Story

Safety Success Stories

Ensuring Safety by Overcoming the Generation Gap By Corey Jones

I'm a safety coordinator for EllisDon, one of North America's largest construction companies. EllisDon is known for taking on and successfully completing some of the world's most challenging and high profile projects. Safety coordinators at EllisDon must be prepared for all types of projects. Each one poses different challenges. In my own experience, I've worked on:

A retrofit in a downtown Toronto concert hall in which a crane had to be taken apart and put back together to get it in the building;
Construction of a new five-story addition for a hospital, along with a massive renovation to over 75% of existing space, where the hospital had to stay open throughout the work; My current project, a $100 million expansion of a waste water treatment plant, made up of 5 separate contracts. (In addition to managing two of the projects my company has within the expansion, I'm also an in-house health and safety consultant to the owner of the project.)
Different Projects, Common Problem

Although each project is different, one problem keeps coming up: Trades people who take shortcuts and unnecessary risks.

It happens all the time. I don't know the reason but I suspect that it's partly a generational thing. I'm 29 years old and came of age at a time when safety has more meaning. But most of the workers I deal with are older. They learned their trade when safety basically took a back seat to "business considerations" like the schedule and production.

When new apprentices come into the trades, they're often partnered with the experienced tradesmen and pick up much of the older generation's thinking and values toward safety--whether from intimidation, the desire to please or because they genuinely think the older guys are right--and forget the lessons they learned in school. Unfortunately, accidents are often the result.

Teaching the Old Dogs New Tricks

Counteracting this is a big part of my job. My challenge is two-fold:

Persuading the younger workers not to emulate the old guard and its thinking; and
Changing the way the old guard thinks about safety altogether.
Let me explain some of the tactics I use to accomplish these goals.

The Old Dogs--The Importance of Communication

Bridging the gap between safety coordinator and workers is tough enough. But it's even harder when you're a lot younger than the workers you're trying to manage. After all, people who've been doing things a certain way aren't likely to embrace change, especially when it's being urged on them by a "kid."

So what do I do? First, I realize that it's up to me to seek out the workers. I can't wait for them to come to me because they won't. When I say going to the workers, I mean getting to know them on a personal level. I also mean letting them know what I expect of them and telling them what they can expect from me. I expect them to work safely, and they expect me to come down on them if they're not.

The Young Pups--The Samuel Walton Method

Samuel Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, is one of my professional idols. Anyone that worked at Wal Mart that met Sam Walton will tell you why he was so successful. When he visited a store, he'd get his staff together, get down on one knee and ask them direct questions on how things could be improved. He didn't sit in an office and assume he knew everything. He asked.

I subscribe to the Samuel Walton management technique. So whenever I do an orientation, I always ask how long each worker has been in the trade. When there are apprentices present, I ask them to stay behind. If it's a newer apprentice, I tell him to ignore anything that he's told to do that is the opposite of what he learned at trade school, as it pertains to safety, and fill me in if his partner is trying to get him to do anything silly. Then I go out on site, find out who he's partnered up with, take him aside and tell him to watch the young kid, send him in the right direction, and I'll come back and check in to see how he's doing.

I find the apprentice feels honored that I've taken an interest in him, and am relying on him to give me feedback on the jobsite. And the older tradesmen feels good that I'm relying on him to be a teacher, and in addition to that, knows that I'm watching, so likely will be more inclined to perhaps take a little more time to do things properly, which he normally might not.


Let me conclude by recommending this exercise: The next time you're getting ready to discipline somebody for a health and safety infraction (we'll assume it's a first offender and the violation isn't egregious) try putting the shoe on the other foot. Pretend that you're that worker, and reprimand him the way that you would want to be reprimanded. Use the occasion as an opportunity to educate, to make the worker understand what he did wrong and how he should have done it differently. Educate them, make them understand why it's wrong and tell them how to do it differently.

Using these communication tactics has helped me to achieve a zero fatality and zero lost time injury record in my first four years as a safety coordinator. I will endeavor to maintain that record in the future, as the older tradesmen retire making way for a new pre-educated, safety conscious generation.


How Do You Make Sure Employees Understand Training?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to all of you who responded to last week's question. We received so many responses that we just couldn't use all of them. We also had to shorten many of the responses we did use so we could present the maximum number of views. If you got left on the cutting room floor, we apologize.

Include supervisors

To ensure that participants will transfer what they have learned from classroom to job, include their supervisors in the training. When supervisors also participate in the training, supervisors are able to serve as coaches and supporters.

John Wettstein, CRSP
Wettstein Safety Strategies Inc.
Edmonton, Alberta

Engage participants

Try to make your learners participate in the learning. If they lead you to the answers, they'll have much greater ownership of the end result.

Bill L. Bennett
Occupational Health & Safety Practitioner
Mitchell's Gourmet Foods
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

To rate the comprehension of the staff in regard to safety training, have active conversation/hands-on interaction with them during the training.

Matthew S. Taylor
O&M Safety Representative
Johnson Controls @ The Agilent Project

Ask open-ended questions. These types of questions give room for trainees to explain more about the subject. It will also give you a picture of whether this person is competent or not yet competent.

Subira A. Kwilabya
Safety Officer
KMCL Bulyanhulu Mine

Have participants demonstrate

A good way to ensure that employees really understand the training is to have them re-teach a portion of the material at the end of the session.

Paul Phillips RPF
Safety Leader
Alberta Forestlands

Give the employees the opportunity to experience first-hand what they have been taught. Training has relevance only to applied practices. So, if there is no opportunity to put the training into use, there is really no learning nor purpose for the training.

John R. Mitchell
Business Analyst
Elec. Geo. Info Mgmt.

Have the employees demonstrate in front of you what they have learned (e.g., proper lifting techniques).

Tom Jolliff, ARM, ALCM, CHCM
Senior Technical Specialist
ICW Safety Services
San Diego, California

Post-training quiz

You need to be sure you've reached all the different educational levels in your training group. For me, the best way to do this is to give a multiple choice quiz (not a "test") covering the key areas of importance at the end of the training, or little audit checks on the system in place or the individuals involved. A low quiz score or a noncompliant finding during the audit would result in re-training.

Judy Hall
ISO Coordinator
Lakeland Mold Company

I think that testing after the training is good. But wait a week.

Charles O. McLendon

I used to test our employees on a quarterly basis over the programs that they were trained on during that quarter...Based on the results, I would then do special training sessions with those who scored badly. Anyone receiving 100% (8 questions total) would be awarded a gift card from a local store or restaurant.

Debby King
Safety Coordinator/AP Administrator
Cloud Concrete Products

Post-training evaluation

It's essential to have some form of evaluation of the training in order for it to be effective. There are many ways to evaluate employees and training programs. You can evaluate reactions to training sessions through questionnaires, focus groups, etc. You can evaluate the level of learning that occurred during a training session by issuing tests of some form, such as multiple choice or true and false tests. You can evaluate employee behavior through studying performance reports or indirect observations of employee's performance after the training.

Chrissy Weatherston
Training Coordinator
Torham Packaging Inc.

Our employees fill out a Comprehension & Understanding form. We find that once an employee has been subjected to new and/or reviewed information, they are willing to fill in the form to show they have retained some, if not all the information. We also found calling the form a "test" was not a good idea as employees felt less comfortable filling it out in fear they were going to be graded on the information shared. Thus we were not able to capture the results of the information shared and plot the impact on the employees.

James W. Kaus
Unit Leader

Have informal chats

What's the best way to make sure that employees really understand the training you provide? Through impromptu verification via discussion while on the job.

Richard G. Hills
Master Corporal
Canadian Defence Liaison Staff
Washington Fin. Mgmt. Svcs

Watch for changed behavior

The real answer is what do they do back on the jobsite. If you are training employees on lockout/tagout (LOTO) and three days later you observe them locking out their machine prior to cleaning, maybe they remembered something from your training program. If, however, you see them using LOTO procedures three weeks and then three months later, your training was probably effective.

Barry R. Weissman, REM, CSP, CHMM, CHS-III
Associate Director - Health, Safety & Environmental PLIVA, Inc.
East Hanover, NJ


What's the best way to persuade management to take ergonomic risks seriously?

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