My friends will be aware that the first weekend in December has a very important place in my diary. It is the weekend when my Rotary Club runs its Christmas Market. Not surprisingly perhaps, my main task at this annual extravaganza is the Health and Safety at the event. The event requires the closure of the High Street through the town. It is served by 140 stalls, has a children’s fairground and is visited by an estimated 20,000 people. So the management of the event is not inconsiderable, and the Health and Safety must be proportionate.
As part of the preparation of the event, one of our club evenings is entirely devoted to a briefing. This includes all the relevant Health and Safety information. Our brief is usually well attended. All the club Rotarians and members of other services clubs (another Rotary Club, Round Table, Lions) are there. This time we had over 80 people there for the briefing. I felt that the briefing went well and my Rotary colleagues agreed. Like my colleagues, I promptly moved on to the preparation of the market.
Relevance of Training
We started early on the Sunday morning, had a great day and lots of people came despite one heavy shower. Towards the end of the evening, I was standing with one of our volunteer helpers staffing a road barrier. He said to me that he though that the Health and Safety briefing was “really excellent”. So I asked what he meant. “You made it so simple and relevant”, he replied, “not like other Health and Safety training that I’ve had”.
I hadn’t really thought about it, but like my volunteer friend, I too have been at the receiving end of dull, irrelevant and technically confusing Health and Safety presentations. I don’t know why trainers / lecturers / presenters try to confuse their audience – and this isn’t restricted to Health and Safety. Perhaps they feel that by communicating that their area is technically complex, that they are somehow superior. Maybe they feel that they just aren’t justifying their topic if people come away thinking that it is easy. Whatever the reason, they get groups of people leaving who have not the first clue what was supposed to be communicated. If the subject was Health and Safety, they also get a group of people equiped to do nothing about their own or other people’s Health and Safety. In other words they have failed in achieving the primary objective of their presentation.
The truth is that people aren’t interested in the technicalities of other people’s professions. They know that technicalities must exist. Their job probably looks simple to an outsider and they know that their role has tecnicalities. So others must have too. However, they just don’t need (or want) to know what those techniclities are. If a presenter spend lots of time trying to ensure that everyone knows how technical their role is, they actually achieve two other things.
Firstly, they achieve confusion in their audience, the audieince certainly does not go away with a clear understanding of what they were supposed to have learned. Secondly, they come away with the feeling that the presenter is somehow justifying their own existence or that of their subject area. In other words, they come away with the feeling that the time they spent probably wasn’t needed and to confirm that, they learned nothing.
These two negative acheivements lead to an inescapable conclusion for those faced with these Health and Safety non-learning sessions. Health and Safety is dull, wastes time and acheives nothing.
So make it simple
The truth is that Health and Safety should be an enabler, allowing things to be achieved rather than preventing things happening. Health and Safety is interesting, it is after all, a problem solving issue. Health and Safety is what ensures that staff go home to their families fit and well at the end of the working day – and are fit and well to come into work tomorrow.
Let’s go out there and make Health and Safety training simple, entertaining and relevant – shouldn’t be too difficult; that is what it is!