OK – You are preparing for your next safety meeting.  You know the topic you are teaching. You are knowledgable about the materials and you know what results you want.  But the question is – How are you going to explain it?  What are your training techniques?

You see, how you teach the material has a tremendous impact on whether or not your students (employees) will not only understand the information but internalize it and use the knowledge gained in the future.

Not everything you teach can necessarily be done with the same training techniques.  Your method needs to be based on the information you are delivering and the audience that is taking in that information.


Before we get into determining your training techniques and the variety of methods out there, let’s consider how most people learn.

You can break learning into five basic categories:

  1. Audio/lecture – having to hear the information
  2. Visual – having to see the information
  3. Kinesthetic – feeling or doing; this is a hands-on practice or demonstration of the information
  4. Writing – taking notes to retain and learn the info
  5. Teaching – telling someone else about the information you learned.

Each category helps people retain information differently and at different amounts.  For example, when you read something, you retain 10% of it; when you see a video on it you retain 20%, but when you read it and watch a video you could potentially retain 30%.

These are things to keep in mind as you are choosing your training techniques.  You always want to do a combination of these categories and not just one.


Teaching adults is very different than teaching children (although, I’m sure some may argue that employees act like children).

They come to the classroom with a lot of knowledge and experience already.  You don’t want to contradict their understanding, you want to respect it.  If you start off by telling them all they have learned is wrong, their brains will shut you out.

Showing respect for what they already know will open them up to what you want to share.

You can also use their experience to help reinforce what you are teaching.  Allowing your employees to share stories and insights will make the entire class more receptive.

Also, adults have different motivations for learning.

If an adult is not interested in the topic being taught, they will not be an active participant in the training.  Even though they are present, their minds will be resisting the information the whole time.

The trick to starting the training with a hook, to gain their interest.  Grab your employee’s attention.  Teach them something new, different, or up-and-coming.

Showing the same safety video year after year doesn’t cut it with adults.

However, if they are interested in the topic, they are more engaged than any other student.  They are willing and eager to add on to their current knowledge of the subject. 

Adult learners understand that safety training is necessary and helpful.  Most of your employees just don’t want to waste their time learning something they already know.


The best way to combat this is to do a training needs assessment.

Before developing any training, survey your employee’s current knowledge.  This survey can be an actual electronic or paper survey, or you can have face-to-face conversations.

“I’m putting together a new chemical training, I don’t want to cover stuff you already know, what can you tell me about chemical safety and what do you think we need to improve on.”

Having these conversations accomplishes so much, you are…

  1. Building relationships with your employees, showing you care about their opinion.
  2. Reinforcing your safety policies.
  3. Priming them for the upcoming training, they will be hyper-focused on the topic.
  4. Understanding how to craft your training techniques to meet their needs.
  5. Able to eliminate redundant information they already know.


Now that you have a clear understanding of what your people already know and where your knowledge gaps are, you are ready to create your training.

Some regulations require you to review the same information year over year.  If your people already know this, skim over it, include it in your post-training quiz, and get on to the good stuff.

Create a list of what areas need training reinforcement.  Look at the list of training methods and decide on one or two for each.

For example, if your people need help finding SDS, then using a visual of the SDS book would work. Need to train on cleaning up spills, a video may be the right choice; they don’t understand your policy, a verbal lecture may be a choice.


To be most effective, mix up your methods.  Remember they retain more when you use multiple methods.

  • Showing them the SDS book AND having them do a random search in the book
  • A video on how to clean up a spill AND you talking about your companies procedures
  • Having an employee teach the group about the chemical procedures AND using of a handout.

Mixing it up also makes the training more fun and engaging.


  • Lecture only
  • Handout
  • Video
  • Computer Learning
  • PowerPoint
  • Role-Playing
  • Group Presentations
  • Quizzes
  • Giving them a list of questions before training, call on them to answer
  • Case Studies
  • Table Top Drills or Actual played out drills
  • Games (I love Safety Jeopardy)

This list is not all-inclusive; there are so many different ways to train.  Remember to always do a needs assessment before creating any training, and to mix up the techniques to improve retention and engagement.


That was a lot of information on training techniques, maybe some were new to you.  What I want you to do, before your next safety meeting, is to take a few moments and do a needs assessment.  Have those conversations with your people and really get an idea of what they know and what your gaps are.  Doing this is one of the BEST ways to make your training techniques better.

Now It’s Your Turn

Before you go, leave me a comment and add to the conversation about training.  I am sure I did not hit all the different techniques out there.  Share your favorite.

Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

Get started with my weekly newsletters: