Working to improve safety in the workplace is a constant for most manufacturers, no matter what you produce or what kind of equipment you use on the floor. As manufacturers, all of us are trying to make our facilities safer because we understand the impact of job-related injuries.
Workplace injuries are costly on many different levels:
- The personal cost an injured employee can face, including time away from work, lost wages, possible mental health consequences, and even the potential impact on long term physical health.
- The impact injuries can have on the rest of your workforce, including lower morale and negative feelings about your company.
- The monetary cost to your company, including workman’s compensation, temporary loss of a valuable employee, equipment damage, and even product damage.
And no matter how well we understand the impact, workplace injuries are still a pretty big problem. Take a look at the infographic below from the National Safety Council.
Provided by The National Safety Council
And that’s why manufacturers put so much time and money into their safety and training programs. According to Magnatag, companies can expect a return of $4-$6 for every dollar they invest in their safety programs. If that weren’t incentive enough, companies who implement effective health and safety programs can expect to see employee illness and injury rates decrease by 20% or more.
Beating a dead horse here, right? We all get how important safety programs are.
Most manufacturers put a lot of work into developing what we think is a great safety program. We put together awesome training, keep safety top of mind for workers, and consistently drill the “safety first” mentality into our employees. Yet sometimes it still isn’t enough.
We’ve all been in training sessions where our fellow employees were distracted, talking to each other, or messing around on their phones. Worse still, what about those training sessions where employees believe they already know all the information that’s being presented?
After all, talking about safety is BORING… until someone gets hurt. Is it surprising that employees might get distracted?
The real challenge with safety programs isn’t with the actual information that you’re presenting to employees. The challenge is in presenting the information in a way that keeps employee attention, helps them retain the information, and allows them to internalize proper safety practices.
Using effective visual aids may be the answer.
According to Wise Businessware, adding relevant visual aids to an oral presentation makes a huge difference in keeping employee eyes focused on the information. It also increases employee retention of the material being taught. In fact, visual aids can:
- Boost the clarity of your message
- Increase employee interest in the information
- Increase training/information retention
- Improve the trainer’s credibility
- Help to make the safety message more persuasive
This one’s easy – use whatever type of visual aid works for your presentation or safety training session.
Depending on your industry, you may need to think a little outside the box, but this is a good time to bring a little creativity into the job. In some cases, you shouldn’t be afraid to use humor to make your point if you can keep it clean (non-vulgar) and appropriate to the situation. There’s nothing funny about getting seriously injured on the job, but you may be able to find other ways to bring a little humor into your training.
Rather than simply standing in front of your employees with a clipboard and talking through your safety training, consider throwing in some visual aids to keep it interesting and engaging. Here are a few ideas to help you get the creative juices flowing:
- Enlarged photos
- Physical demonstrations
- Diagrams, charts and graphs
- Video footage
No matter what visual aids you choose, make sure they don’t steal the show. Visual aids should support your message and keep employees on topic, rather than being a distraction.
Improving manufacturing safety often goes beyond what employees hear in their safety classes. The importance of safety is part of a company’s culture and it should be reflected throughout the workplace. That potential means using safety boards, employee bulletin boards, digital boards, safety posters and banners, safety labeling, or any other visual aid that supports your message.
Once you go beyond the initial safety training and work on building a safety culture within your organization, there are lots of great ideas you can use to drive your safety message home. One of the most fun ways we’ve heard of is using workplace photos to communicate the safety message. This idea not only gives you some great stuff for your safety/employee board, but it also gets employees directly involved in safety.
Safety boards don’t have to be boring! There are lots of online resources available for posters, banners, and other visual aids.
Another way to put safety front and center on the manufacturing floor is to develop specific safety boards for employees. Some of the most common types of boards are SafetyCross boards, injuries year to date boards, and they XX number of days since our last incident boards. These are very common in manufacturing. Here at Conner, we’ve made our own safety boards out of wood (of course) and posted them at each plant to celebrate the number of accident-free days at each facility.
Improving safety is a big deal for manufacturers, and we put a lot of time, money, and effort into it. Unfortunately, none of that matters if we can’t keep employees engaged in both safety training, and a safety culture within the workplace.
We’ve got to provide safety training and information in a way that keeps employee attention, helps them retain the information, and allows them to internalize proper safety practices. Using highly effective visual aids can be the one thing that allows manufacturers to truly improve their safety programs.
After all, 83% of learning occurs visually. Can we afford to ignore that?