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Workplace risk perception training: the important role of stories

One of the good things about workers' compensation is that you don't have to prove your employer was negligent. If an injury happened on the job, there is generally eligibility for work comp coverage.

But employers should not only be complying with the requirement to carry workers' compensation insurance. They should also be seeking to design training programs and workplace structures to minimize the risk of injuries in the first place.

In this post, we will discuss the importance of training programs that properly address workers' perceptions of their own vulnerability.

Safety professionals in both industry and academia are concerned that safety training programs often fail to make clear how vulnerable workers can be. Workers may have an abstract knowledge of hazards and safety rules, but not understand how vulnerable they really are to injuries.

This is particularly true of veteran workers, who have successfully avoided workplace hazards over a fairly long period of time.

The problem with much of the safety training that is offered in the workplace is that it fails to engage workers with storytelling techniques that enable them to recognize their own vulnerability.

For example, let's say an industrial facility with various electrical hazards offers ongoing training on those hazards. In order to be effective, that training has to go beyond merely book knowledge. It has to make the risk of serious injury tangible to the trainees.

After all, workers in dangerous occupations such as construction can suffer a disabling or even fatal injury at any time. Training programs, therefore, need to do a better job of getting the point across to workers that the risk of this happening is not merely abstract.

Source: American Society of Safety Engineers, "The Value of Vulnerability: Helping Workers Perceive Personal Risk," Anna H.L. Floyd and H. Landis Floyd II, Accessed May 9, 2014

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