Education: The term "educate" originates from the Latin, Ed-u-cer-e (ey-doo-ker-ey), which means "that which leads out of ignorance." Education is actually anything that brings us out of ignorance and helps to improve our skills, knowledge and attitudes (SKA).
John F. Rekes, PE, CIH, CSP, says it well: "Education is a process through which learners gain new understanding, acquire new skills, and/or change their attitudes."
Education in its broadest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another. (Wikipedia)
Training: Rekes goes on to describe training as "a more specialized form of education that focuses on developing or improving skills. While training incorporates educational theories, principles and practices, its focus is on performance. The goal of training is for learners to be able to do something new or better than before."
The outcome: The educational process can be quite complex and learning usually takes place on many levels. An educational program can be successful even if the learners can't do anything new or different at the end of the program.
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Safety education informs, persuades, and motivates students to be involved and work safely. The most important goal of safety education is to show why working safely is important.
Why do you think most employees don't do what they are supposed to do in the workplace? It's because they don't know why it's important to do it! Consequently, the most important thing we can do as safety trainers is to make sure our students know why working safely is important.
What is the process we can use to make sure employees are most effectively educated? We call it the KSA Education Process and it involves three basic strategies to educate employees so they can gain knowledge, increase their skills, and improve abilities: instruction, training, and experience.
We'll discuss each of these educational strategies in the upcoming modules, but first let's take a look in the next section at the psychological process of being educated. Understanding the underlying psychology of the process of being educated will help us understand that everything that occurs, both internally and externally, experience educates us.
Now let's see how we each go through a continual educational process. Refer to the illustration: Think of this as a continually repeating process. We are educated by everything to which we are aware. What we see and hear in the external environment educates us as follows:
For instance, Bob witnesses Gloria get hit on the head with a wrench someone dropped while working overhead. Now let's look at the process:
It's important to know that the steps in this process are not necessarily linear in nature. It's probably more appropriate to think of the educational KSA process as all steps occurring all the time.
So, why did Bob change his behavior in the previous scenario?
What he saw affected what he immediately thought and felt, and ultimately made him a believer. His actions and experience confirmed his beliefs.
While safety education, according to OSHA, describes the "who, what, where, how and when," safety education should also explain "why" safety is important to employee and corporate success. In fact, the "why" may be the most important point to emphasize.
It's important to know that the most frequently expressed reason employees do not work safely is because they don't know "why" it's important. Employees will listen to what management thinks is important. If management does not stress the importance of working safe, eventually employees will not believe it is that important. To most effectively emphasize the importance of safety, the employer must educate employees about the consequences of their performance.
Consequences are the "events" that immediately follow a behavior. The event is contingent on the behavior, meaning that they occur only if the behavior occurs.
For safety education to be truly effective in the long term, it must emphasize two major kinds of consequences:
It's also important to emphasize the natural and system consequences of behaviors.
Let's take a closer look at natural and system consequences.
Effective safety education will help employees and organizations understand they are naturally rewarded or punished for their behaviors: They basically "do it to themselves." Natural consequences are unplanned, inevitable, and occur automatically, and include injury, damage to equipment, and high/low morale.
Natural consequences occur as a result of individual behaviors. Examples include:
Natural consequences may also be the result of organization behaviors. Examples include:
Gary, a previous student wrote, "I stress to my co-workers that a life jacket is mandatory on deck. We hired a young guy who was a swimmer in college. He thought his swimming skills were such that he did not need the jacket. We educated him on hypothermia and that he could not save himself if he fell over in 35 degree water. Once he understood the facts, he wore the jacket at all times, because he wanted to, not because he had to."
System consequences are intentionally administered by another person or the organization in response to a behavior or action and include high/low insurance rates, OSHA inspections/investigations, and industry/community recognition. There are two primary categories of system consequences.
Employee System consequences. It's important to educate employees on the system consequences for performance when they are hired. Examples of system consequences to employees include:
Employer System Consequences. Equally important is educating management on the system consequences of organizational behavior. Managers need to know how effective safety management systems impact the way in which regulatory agencies and the community react. System consequences to the employer might include:
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