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According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 2.3 million workers die every year as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. The impact of safety and health problems vary across sectors, with construction taking the highest place in the urban economy. Highly regulated sectors such as pharmaceutical, oil and gas extraction, manufacturing and others pose serious safety threats and need to be dealt with caution. Failure to live up to safety standards in any area of such industries can cost employees and organizations very heavily.

According to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, organizations in America suffered losses worth 59.9 billion USD due to safety related incidents at work. It is not only a loss of money when such situations arise, but also loss of reputation and high employee turnover rates which deeply hurt organizations in the long run.

The question is – How can organizations prevent such mishaps at the workplace, limit the loss of lives and property and safeguard brand reputation? The answer is by ensuring that safety standards is being adhered to by everyone, especially the people on the job. Employers have a responsibility to make their staff well aware of the safety processes and procedures. They also need to ensure that employees do their jobs with complete knowledge of operations. Though such industries have their own ways of training their staff, the way it is done does not really help develop a well trained workforce.

Organizations generally look at safety trainings as a once in a year event where heavy manuals prescribing the do’s and don’ts at the workplace are handed over to the employees. It is expected that employees will actually look through these long, descriptive manuals and have it with them at the time of need. Supervisors find such manual content boring and there is a common lack of interest across levels. Even if they read parts of it, most vital information goes missing and impossible to retain in times of an actual crisis. Such a mundane and lengthy approach to safety training goes for a complete waste as no one ends up learning or remembering anything. For industries that pose so much threat, ignoring this is not an option.

In order to counter this, it is advisable to use microlearning to impart safety training. Instead of presenting the workforce with heavy manuals, information on safety aspects can be delivered in bite-sized modules. Online learning nuggets can be used in all stages of the learning cycle. Quick “bursts” of information can be delivered to employees to create awareness about processes, train employees by using real life situations as examples and providing just-in-time (JLT) support when needed.

Let us see the benefits of microlearning in safety training:

1. Use of scenarios helps learners connect more

With microlearning, training can involve scenarios depicting different kinds of preventive measures that can be taken to avoid accidents. These can be in the form of engaging videos describing real people, locations and situations that learners can personally relate to. This will help the staff to connect more to the learning content and help strike an emotional chord due to the direct relation to what they experience on a daily basis. Scenarios can also be used to explain the importance and benefits of safety training before it even begins. Such pre-training engagement can make learners more curious and enthusiastically look forward to the training.

As an example, staff at a fuel station might know that the usage of mobile phones is prohibited at the site. But knowing this is not enough. The employee also needs to know how to actually deal with a situation where a customer uses the mobile phone on site. They should know how to politely ask the customer to switch off their mobile phones, give them the reason why and handle the queries of different kinds of customers with the right kind of communication. Such kind of process and soft skill training can be given through role plays and scenarios, that are engaging and which use the power of storytelling.

2. Basic knowledge becomes more engaging

Safety training involves acquainting the learner with a host of terms and do’s and don’ts. Presenting this information in one go can leave the learner feeling overwhelmed and de-motivated. The sheer size and complicacy of the technical concepts makes it uninteresting and non-engaging.

An example is that of Walmart that has developed a mobile app for its warehouse workers. This app includes brief videos that focus on how to do basic tasks on the job, such as driving a forklift or positioning ladders. Post this initiative, the number of injuries fell by almost half during a six-month trial period among 5000 workers.

Microlearning helps make this more effective by storing all the safety information in the knowledge repository. Anyone who wants to know about something specific, or wants to revisit a particular concept can do so by simply searching for it in the knowledge base. Huge pieces of information can be converted into smaller chunks for learners to be able to digest more easily. Such a system makes information available in the time of need, is presented in visually appealing ways and makes the chances of retaining it higher.

3. Gamification makes learning fun and competitive

Incorporating the principles of gamification into microlearing can help convert training into a pull-driven engagement, where learners actually participate and learn at their own will. Gamification has proved to be an excellent way to help engage learners in a way that information becomes much easier to retain. It offers a much more relaxed and informal environment of learning and has the ability to make seemingly mundane tasks a lot of fun. Perhaps this is why the spending on game-based learning is set to reach USD 2.404.12 million by 2018, up from USD 1,739.55 million in 2013.

Gamification plays on the aspect of learner curiosity and uses elements that makes learners discover and unravel new levels on their own. It allows for learners to have an immersive experience that acts as a motivation to complete tasks and reach goals. Using online learning technology to reward learners with points, badges, certificates of completion, cash incentives etc. motivates learners to engage and work harder. Adding some level of competition by creation of badges or point leaderboards can also enable learners to set higher standards of achievement and be proud of their performance.

The delivery of effective safety training with the use of microlearning can help organizations to train their workforce and keep them ahead of processes and techniques. If organizations can ensure that they deliver quality training in engaging ways, workforce will participate. This will help prevent illnesses and injuries at the workplace, which will help prevent financial losses and tarnishing reputation of brands. Organizations should harness the power of microlearning to make their premises and people safer.

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