Are Your Employees Really Engaged in Safety Training?
 Sept. 9, 2011

So you’ve conducted a captivating training session. Now it’s time to see if your "pearls of wisdom" are being put into practice. You walk through the operation, scrutinizing the work process and to your disappointment you see people engaged in the same unsafe practices that you had just addressed. What would be even more discouraging is if an employee sustains an injury because they didn’t apply your safety training.

So what happened? Your information was relevant and fundamental to safely performing their job. Perhaps you didn’t reach your audience. The difference between effective safety training that employees will apply to the performance of their job responsibilities and training that fails to have a positive impact depends on whether or not trainees are fully engaged in the training. If your employees aren't engaged in your training, they aren't actually learning what they need to know to conduct their work tasks safely. So how can you tell if your students are engaged or disengaged?

Training is a two way street. You instruct and hopefully your employees learn. And, training is most effective when it involves an interactive process. Trainers need to look for feedback that suggests that people are engaged. Read the room. Look at your audience as you make your presentation, if they are engaged they will:

  • Smile frequently
  • Nod in agreement
  • Make eye contact
  • Raise their eyebrows
  • Lean forward
  • Orient their torsos toward you as the trainer
Conversely, disengaged learners will tend to give you signs that they’ve tuned out. Typically they’ll exhibit behavior such as:
  • Less eye contact

  • Turning their torsos away from you
  • Frequent glances toward the clock or exit

Disengaged learners will also display gestures such as touching the back of their necks, fiddling with jewelry, or playing with their hair. These behaviors can indicate restlessness and disinterest. The ultimate sign of disengagement is when learners rest their chin on the palm of their hand. If they close their eyes, you’ve completely lost them.

What should you do if the signals tell you that employees are disengaged? Among other things you might consider your own body language. Perhaps they are mirroring your behavior. If you appear disinterested, they may be feeding off your lack of enthusiasm for the subject.

Recognize that you may need to infuse energy into the group. Listening and taking notes is not always enough to connect your students to the subject matter. Make the session interactive. Ask questions, invite comments and initiate discussions. Try to include exercises in the training whenever that’s possible.

Finally, you might want to reward the retention of information. A short quiz at the end of the safety training session covering the most important content of the training and coupled with a reward (lunch, inexpensive gift card, etc) can go a long way toward motivating people to stay tuned in.

For more information in safety training techniques and subject matter contact the CMTA Group Workers’ Compensation program at


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