Best Safety Training Ideas: Continually Evolve Your Program to Keep It Fresh, Engaging

Chris Stanger | Director of Safety | Agspring | Leawood, KS

“Our main focus is hands-on training. We often bring in experts to help get people engaged. Training can be boring, but we work to make it interesting. We use videos from fire departments to show incidents involving real people who were injured.

“Our first reaction to COVID-19 was to use online training, but we realized it wasn’t working. We scheduled training sessions over a longer period of time and used a warehouse and a projector with smaller groups in attendance. We found that didn’t really hurt operations to train smaller groups, and social distancing is easier. We did all our training like this last year. We’ve gotten sharper, and the program has improved. We’re always searching for new ideas to keep it interesting.

“We have a ‘near miss’ program where people report close calls and near misses, and we share these with all employees. We offer $25 gift cards for reporting near misses. This is controversial, but it removes the egos and fear of disciplinary action. For example, our chief financial officer lacked the proper personal protective equipment on-site, and it was reported. This shows we’re all in this together from the top down. Safety is important for all of us, and we can learn from near misses.”

Doug Green | Safety Manager | Ursa Farmers Cooperative | Ursa, IL

“We do a safety fair in the spring or before harvest. Everyone in the company is required to attend. We provide food, speakers, and booths with hands-on safety demonstrations. There’s something for everyone, office and field employees.

“Our locations are spread out over a 60-mile radius, so we do online safety training ranging from bin entry to slip and fall accidents and lockout/tagout. I try to visit each location once a month to provide hands-on training.

“Every year, we do a pre-harvest meeting to go over everything we learned over the previous year and things to be aware of and remember. We do 20 trainings a year, and we roll it up in a this short meeting to remind everyone how to work safely.”

Luke Potter | Safety Coordinator | United Grain | Vancouver, WA

“In general, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our training has heavily leveraged online training and learning management systems to provide maximum exposure to training for our employees. We run an export terminal that operates 24/7, and these types of trainings are very convenient for getting training out to people in the field.

“To maximize social distancing, we’re not using our standard conference room for training. Instead, we have been using a portable projector and screen in our shop space. For example, for confined space training or how to safely handle compressed air, I prefer to do these in-person. I provide a lecture followed by hands-on training.

“We also use training props to provide ladder safety training. We have lots of portable ladders around our facility, and we provide pre-use inspection safety training. We have a prop ladder that is clearly marked as a training aid so no one would actually use it. The ladder has just about all the conditions that would make it unsafe, including a damaged rung, a cracked side rail, a missing rubber foot, and a missing manufacturer’s safety label. We give trainees a list of things that make a ladder unsafe and ask them to identify which ones are present with the prop ladder.”

Shane Kluck | Director of Safety and Risk Management | Aurora Cooperative Elevator Co. | Aurora, NE

“Employee-based safety is a peer-based training instead of me giving a speech. We roll it out to location managers, and they can hold each other accountable. Then their employees can provide peer-to-peer training. People like peer training, because they’re receiving it from people they’re with every day.

“Internet- or web-based safety training can reach a broad spectrum of employees, and they can take the training whenever their schedule allows. A dashboard shows me who has done what topic, and we can send reminders to those whose training is overdue.

“The Nebraska Safety Council provides training online or face-to-face, and they have a long list of training topics they can provide. They also can train people to be trainers, so we can roll it out to broader groups of employees. The Nebraska Trucking Association gives training on-site, and they can customize topics for groups of 10 to 40 employees. All these things add up to make sure that we get each and every employee home safe every day.”

Shawn Lambert | Safety Manager | Co-Alliance | Avon, IN

“We focus on interactive hands-on training that includes many topics within the grain handling and general industry standards. We have historically conducted classroom training, then break into small groups and challenge the employees to execute the trained activity. This has been our most successful training method, and we feel our employees better understand and retain the material vs. simply listening to a lecture.

“Online training also has its benefits. Although we used online prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has required us to better utilize this type of training. There are many providers with quality interactive online training platforms that prompt the students to correctly answer questions throughout the video. This requires more focus and improves retention, when the employees know they must answer questions to pass.

“Finally, we use lunch box/toolbox training sessions. We provide our location managers with an assignment to review with all employees at the location. These involve a 5- to 15-minute discussion and sometimes a follow-up quiz. These have been successful, and we get good attention and participation with the employee group. These typically are monthly assignments on a safety topic usually related to operations, but sometimes the topic is for all employees. For example, prior to schools getting back in sessions in our trade areas of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, we sent a school bus safety training talk to all employees.”

Kyle Joseph Waletich | Director of Risk Management | Cooperative Farmers Elevator | Rock Valley, IA

“Last winter, we brought in representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT), as well as industry and insurance specialists on fleet load securement. Members of our driver fleet thought this was a much more useful training than many of our normal methods. We got a lot of questions on how to secure loads, how many straps to use, etc. DOT employees also talked about how to service things that might get you out-of-service tickets, such as brakes and lights.

“We also did training similar to what we saw at the CONVEY ‘21 show on steel bin filling and emptying. This really brought awareness of how to properly fill and empty steel bins and what to do if things don’t look right, so you can address a situation before it gets worse.

“We also did some consultation visits with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – things to look for and the most-cited safety issues to address. We used an OSHA audit to focus on easy fixes and a checklist of the most common violations to raise safety awareness at each site.”

Terry Winger | General Manager | Donovan Farmers Coop Elevator | Donovan, IL

“Our biggest challenge is new employee orientation safety training. We’ve put together some individual training topics, and we also use Safety Made Simple for online training. These videos have more current content compared to other training videos that I feel are outdated. As an industry, we need sound safety training options.

“We’re always trying to find additional ways to get frontline employees to buy into the importance of safety. They’re not buying in as much as we’d like. We don’t have as many safety group trainings as we used to – it’s more individual, online training where they watch a video, take a test afterward, and get 80% to pass.

“I’d like to see some of the manufacturers make safety training a little more friendly. For example, installing a top cable on a bin as part of the bin would make it easier and safer to secure.”

Brandon Herzog | Safety Director | Cooperative Elevator Company | Bad Axe, MI

“I feel the most important part of any training is to first know your audience, then calibrate your training to what they’ll respond to best. Try to understand how people will think and act. Different groups have different attention spans for different topics. Cater your conversation to the room – this is the most important part of delivering training.

“We do load securement and weight distribution training. We need to know the capacity of the vehicle, the tongue weight, and loads within and between our facilities, which makes this important training for us. We have neat videos that show how and when you move weight on a trailer and how it affects load security.

“We also provide lockout/tagout training. Nationwide, this type of training prevents 120 deaths and 50,000 injuries per year by using good, safe practices. Everyone thinks electrical and arc flash when they think about lockout/tagout, but other things also need to be considered, such as pneumatic, thermal, hydraulic, and potential and kinetic energy.

For example, we need to consider these areas on a truck that’s in for service, and these systems can be overlooked. There may not be a large number of employees who might be affected by these things, but we can’t overlook their needs for safety training.”

- From the September/October 2021 GRAIN JOURNAL