About 130 years ago, a German psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus was doing research on human memory, using himself as the primary guinea pig. His experiments proved what many people strongly suspected: that newly learned information is quickly forgotten—sometimes by as much as 90% within a few days or weeks—unless a specific effort is made to revisit the information and refresh the memory.
“OK,” you say. “So what does this have to do with workplace safety?” Well, frontline employees in the food industry, much like their peers in other industrial settings, face actual dangers in the workplace. Some are minor, but many carry the threat of serious injury or even death. The costs to a company of a single serious safety incident can run to tens of thousands of dollars or more. Comprehensive employee training around safety concepts, procedures, and awareness is therefore mandated by state and federal agencies, not to mention being demanded by simple common sense.
And this is where Herr Ebbinghaus’s research enters the picture. Even the best safety training programs will see employee memory and awareness fade over time unless steps are taken to top up employee knowledge and keep safety awareness at the forefront of workers’ consciousness. Such top-ups can be accomplished in several ways, and in fact, transmitting the same safety messaging through multiple media, or channels, actually helps employees retain critical concepts and procedures over time.
Short-burst digital training modules
Knowledge imparted in small, easily digested bites has the greatest employee impact and the best chance for longer, more complete retention. Automated group-based, e-learning, or kiosk training systems can save employee time off the floor. Digital workplace safety courseware can be easily customized to address plant-specific safety issues and themes. The best systems offer simplified tracking and recordkeeping for instant access during safety audits.
No matter how we refer to them, huddle talks—also known as tailgate discussions, pre-shift talks, team huddles, stand-up meetings, etc.—serve a key purpose in reinforcing training and keeping safety concepts top of mind. To make sure such talks are on-topic and effectively support initial training efforts, companies are turning to professionally designed huddle guides. These large-format booklets fully coordinate with a company’s safety training modules in both look and feel. They foster supervisor-employee and peer-to-peer dialogue on critical safety issues.
Safety-themed posters aren’t a new idea by any means. But carefully coordinated awareness posters that carry precisely the same messaging and visual impact as your training modules and huddle booklets can be extremely effective. When posters are rotated on a schedule designed to maximize their ability to keep safety concepts at the forefront of employees’ thoughts, they don’t become just more wallpaper. They extend your training budget by helping employees retain key workplace safety knowledge longer.
Dynamic digital signage
Flat-screen monitors are more and more common in large food production facilities. They’re used for posting announcements, reporting sales figures, and communicating daily production goals. But they’re just as effective when used for reinforcing critical workplace safety concepts—especially when the messaging and graphics align perfectly with your training modules and other safety messaging channels. Best of all, dynamic digital signage can bring safety concepts to life through the use of short, high-impact video. Some experts insist that, considering the potentially disastrous costs of a serious safety incident, the ROI on digital signage used for safety reinforcement is greater than for any other purpose.
Mobile coaching and observation apps
Research has shown that by combining effective training with reinforcement in the form of coaching with corrective observations, companies can increase frontline employee adherence to safety standards by nearly 40%. Cutting-edge mobile coaching and observation apps make it easy for supervisors to observe, coach, correct, and document key workplace safety behaviors on the plant floor in real time. The best of these apps also includes built-in remediation feedback and instant documentation functionality.
Multi-channel training, reinforcement, and messaging simply makes sense. The capital outlay for such systems isn’t that high when one considers the savings that result from the prevention of even one serious safety incident. Somewhere, Herr Ebbinghaus is smiling and nodding.