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                          Become A Safety Preacher

By David Kendziorski, WICAR Program

Education and training programs are boring and forgettable. While presenting hundreds of PowerPoint presentations, I constantly struggle to engage the audience and make a lasting impact. When training your employees, is it difficult to grab their attention and change their performance? You bet!

Organized religions, which over the centuries have refined the art of changing people’s lives, offer a better solution. So let’s steal some of the best communication ideas from religious preachers (don’t worry – we’ll be forgiven):

1. Big Goal: An educator gives lectures that present information, with the premise that you’ll then believe it, remember it, and adopt it. Nonsense! A preacher gives sermons which are intended to change people’s lives (how to raise your kids, how to treat the poor) by offering not only information, but also an extraordinary amount of assistance, guidance, and motivation. Understand that your employees will need a lot of help to improve their safety behavior…not just information.

2. Repetition: No one wants to sit through the same presentation over and over again. But once is not enough. Preachers create a culture of repetition -- they circle the great truths again and again. “Get on your knees every day and repeat it 10 times!” Keep your safety messages simple, but repeat them often.

3. Time: Employees won’t just “bump into” good ideas. Expecting employees to stop and read a poster or holding impromptu training meetings in the break room are not good training strategies. All religions meticulously structure and synchronize their events, rituals, and ceremonies around time. It builds expectations, discipline, enthusiasm, and memories. Schedule your safety training sessions and workshops throughout the year to avoid overwhelming the employees with too much information. Maximize attendance and participation by promoting your training events. You can’t out-do Christmas, but try to make training a memorable event – free lunch, fascinating guest speakers, or fun demonstrations: “Let’s start Fred’s car on fire!”

4. Visual Inspiration: Visit an art gallery, and you’ll likely stand there and say, “What the heck is that?” Not so in a church, synagogue, or temple. Religious paintings, sculptures, and symbols are more straightforward and instantly remind you of what you love, or what you fear. Maximize the impact of your PowerPoints or handouts. Incorporate interesting graphics, photos, and videos that are both entertaining and meaningful. Select from thousands of free YouTube videos on forklift safety, eyewash stations, and fire prevention.

5. Speak Well: I know, easier said than done. Preachers are oratory experts who convincingly convey strong messages with emotion, rhythm, and emphasis. Preachers retell Biblical tales in contemporary terms to make sense of life, and offer hope for the future. Tell stories that leave an impression. Give sincere clear messages: “Safety is important, let’s all set a good example, and all employees are accountable for a safe workplace!” Plan and practice: I usually go through my presentations three times – the first time-around is always horrible, but if I practice more than four times it sounds too rehearsed. Practice in front of your spouse, or if you’re really brave, your kids.



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