Effective Safety Training is Critical, But Should it Also Be Fun?

effective safety training

Providing quality safety training is critical to everyone in the workplace. However, can safety training also be a fun and engaging experience? To quote Michael Hackett, Co-Founder, LogiGear Corporation:

Most people would agree that health and safety can be a very dry subject. It can be a very serious business, but you can also have fun while you’re learning about it.

If we make safety training fun, will we see a better result and worker’s who carry out their tasks in a safer way? Will workplace injuries and fatalities reduce, or are we just providing entertainment?

This article reviews research that investigates whether the component of fun in training helps to improve learning outcomes. Safety training is critical because it has a direct impact on performance.

Maximising Fun May Be Unrelated to Learning

There is a common thought that training activities need to be fun for the transfer of knowledge to occur. However, studies have shown that focussing on maximising fun in training activities has little effect on learning. These studies show that training the same content with, and without, fun activities returned similar results. The research found that including fun can trivialise the learning content. Fun features may also be considered artificial, contrived, juvenile, and a distraction from the learning experience.

In the context of workplace training, some may think that incorporating fun is inappropriate for adults. Especially after an injury or fatal event, for example, when safety training is critical to prevent these from happening again.

When including fun features in training, some workers might feel that the course is a waste of time. They could instead be using the valuable time to complete mounting job tasks. With this in mind, fun training may have the opposite effect and fail to engage workers at all.

Other research found that jokes, stories, and funny videos did not improve worker’s engagement or directly increase knowledge acquisition. What they did do was make the training seem a more positive experience which encourages learning. However, fun activities were shown to reduce the training time for critical skills and knowledge pieces in the course.

With these results, does that mean we need to train using a monotonous dead-pan delivery? Because anything else wastes time and makes little difference?

Fun May Assist Traditional Safety Training

When we use fun activities in traditional training such as trainer-led and classroom activities, it is generally in the form of hands-on exercises, games and competitions. Fun delivery is more instructor-focused where the trainer uses humour, creative examples, and storytelling.

Fun deliveries that incorporate humour and storytelling can lead to a more positive experience for the trainee, and this is useful when safety training is critical. Trainers who use humour and provide fun activities may achieve great course satisfaction survey results.

Using fun in exercises, games and competitions can lead to increased knowledge and skill acquisition as long as the activities facilitate the learning outcomes. There needs to be a direct connection of the game to the learning. The game or story must have relevance and help to illustrate a point or process and not just be entertainment.

Boring, dead-pan deliveries result in a training environment that is less enjoyable and can result in a negative experience that blocks learning. Research notes that trainers who have an expressive and stimulating delivery style were positively related to high levels of engagement and the learning transfer intentions of trainees. The trainer makes a difference here in terms of the level of engagement.

However, the number of dynamic trainers is limited, and this training delivery method is expensive in terms of time and consistency in the delivery. And trainee learning transfer intentions may not result in behaviour change once they complete the training.

See our article and hear our podcast, How Do You Make Safety and Mental Health Training Engaging?

Fun in Online Learning and Games

Many organisations are turning to online training and gaming deliveries, especially for safety training and inductions.  Serious games, games for learning, and simulation games may be used to train a specific critical task or process. Such games use elements of play to teach knowledge, skills, and behaviours.

Simulation games have been shown to achieve increased knowledge and retention.  Games are most effective when they focus on active participation; however, they are not necessarily an equivalent substitute for face-to-face training. Fun may not be necessary for learning to occur when training using games. Effective safety training is critical because it has a direct impact on injury and fatality numbers. Games and fun online training to deliver safety training must be evaluated, in terms of the content versus the entertainment criteria.

The research showed that players appear to enjoy digital games and that using games increased their motivation to participate in the training. Interestingly, the effectiveness of digital games in enhancing knowledge acquisition was not high because those who participated in the games did not learn more than those in a control group.

When we use game-based learning with other learning methods, knowledge acquisition is enhanced. Using games on their own does not enhance learning. 

See our article, How Can You Achieve Value from Your Safety Training?

Experiential Learning Uses Fun and Games

Experiential learning incorporates play and fun and occurs through reflection after completing engaging experiences. One of the challenges with experiential learning is that there is a tendency to focus on the game and the fun. Many fail to relate and apply the experience to specific organisational challenges. Another problem is that some may not value the training as it may appear frivolous or childish. For learning and transfer to occur in experiential learning, it once again must show its relevance beyond just being a fun activity.

For experiential learning to be successful, trainees need to be physically and mentally engaged. Debriefing activities should follow immediately afterwards to focus on how the experience translates into practices at work. After an incident or near-miss, this is especially important when safety training is critical.  Trainees need to reflect on what they learn and the implications for the workplace. They should also complete action plans to show how the new knowledge and skills can be applied.

Play helps managers to consider new possibilities, experiment and develop new skills. Experiential learning activities that incorporate play need to include reflection to create meaning of what is learned.

How Does This Play Out in Tap into Safety’s Training?

Tap into Safety takes training seriously. We provide engaging methods to train how to manage workplace hazards using critical control measures. We understand that relevant and engaging safety training is crucial for the transfer of knowledge into practice. The training uses gamification and microlearning delivery to improve the trainee’s experience when using our software; however, we never trivialise the training content.

Each piece of training has a purpose. We understand that workers have other pressing tasks in their day and we train to deliver critical messages quickly and succinctly.

Tap into Safety’s Mental Health Training is focused on the employee and uses microlearning methods. We aim to increase their mental health literacy by providing animated stories on workplace stressors that can impact on their mental health.

Contact Us for more information.

See our article, Can MicroLearning Improve Safety Training?

To Conclude

Effective safety training is critical to overall safety performance in organisations, and many are seeking new and exciting ways to train. Trainers worry that safety is dull and by incorporating fun activities, they will provide engagement and an effective transfer of learning. This article reviewed research that investigates the use of fun and games to improve knowledge transfer of new skills.

The research examined several studies and found that many trainers believe that incorporating fun into learning environments is a viable means to engage trainees. While fun may undoubtedly have value to encourage engagement, it is by no means a substitute for sound design and delivery.

Using fun in exercises, games and competitions can lead to increased knowledge and skill acquisition as long as the activities facilitate the learning outcomes. But ultimately, there needs to be a direct connection of the training activity to the learning.

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