Make Safety Training and Presentations Accesible

It may not sound very innovative to make training accessible for all students who attend, but the truth is that this is not normally done and any effort put forth to facilitate learning is indeed innovative. This method can be used with little or no effect on the students in your class who do not experience accessibility issues. You must make all your training accessible and in this blog entry I will provide important information about how you make training inclusive so all can learn.

In a Professional Development Conference Proceedings Paper Sharon Campbell (2000) reminded us that making sure the student gets what we give also applies to those students who have issues with hearing, seeing, or learning. Sharon states that the biggest problem is that many students are either in denial about their communication difficulties, or are unaware of them. As the trainer you can use innovation to overcome some learning difficulties and ensure the students get the learning he or she came for. Two good rules of thumb for any safety trainer are to “1) assume that some of your audience members cannot hear well and 2) never offer anything verbally that isn’t also available simultaneously visually” (Campbell, 2000).  Accessible training and presentations are those in which the trainer or speaker has considered the possible realm of communication issues that his or her students may be experiencing and have made accommodations to assist the student in overcoming the issues and learn the material. Every student coming into the classroom deserves a chance to learn and using accessible training can give them that chance. Sharon Campbell (2000) said it best “Always remember the purpose of safety training, and realize that if someone is only partly trained because of a failure to fully understand the material, the consequences can be severe…particularly if you were asked and refused to accommodate a request for assistance”. The benefits far outweigh the potential cost and inconvenience of providing these services to students. There are many examples of these methods around us, but many don’t recognize them. Trainers should use videos that are open captioned or closed captioned with the captioning turned on to ensure students can hear or read the material being presented. Respond to all requests to do something to help a student hear. Use an assistive listening microphone or stationary microphone and don’t walk away from the stationary microphone. If the audience is over 100 people the trainer can use real time captioning or sign language interpreters. There are also assisted listening devices that can be used by students to ensure they receive the material. Technical terms should always be defined to ensure that every student understands what the trainer means by them.  Last but certainly not least, test students to identify their retention and level of understanding of the material. (Campbell, 2000)

As the trainer plans for any training he or she must bear in mind that 10 million adults in this country are illiterate in the English language (Copeland, 2003). Furthermore 30% of Hispanic workers are illiterate in their own language (Copeland, 2003). In her 2003 presentation in Denver Laura Copeland recommended that handout information be at the 6th grade level. Trainers must ensure that all training materials can be understood by their students who have a variety of reading levels. This means that graphics can be used instead of words so that less reading is required. More of the learning can be demonstrated rather than written. Videos can also be used to explain learning objectives rather than having students read. All of this is done to make sure the student can learn. This will not be without some extra cost and work for the trainer. The key is for the trainer to keep the learning interesting so that the students who can read well are not turned off by the material or presentation method. The payoff is that the entire class can meet the learning objectives without leaving anyone behind. The person left behind has a higher chance of causing an accident.

This method can be used by a trainer who has a learning objective for his students to know the basic steps in a Bloodborne Pathogens program. The trainer begins his instruction by showing a film that shows the basic elements put forth in the Code of Federal Regulations and the contents of a first aid kit visually rather than in writing. The film is 10 minutes in length and should be easily understood by each of the ten students in the class. The trainer then asks the students to recall the individual steps and define them for the other students of the class. The trainer passes around two kits for the students to see as the instructor holds up an item and calls on a student to name the item and tell what it is used for. The class with video and demonstration takes 50 minutes and allows for 10 minutes of questions. After questions the instructor ends the class.

In 2001, Latino workers represented 11% of the labor force in this country, but they also represented 17.1% of the workplace injuries or illnesses that resulted in lost workdays. One of the main ways to improve worker safety is by communicating with employees in the language they understand. Trained employees were more successful in demonstrating basic knowledge of workplace safety and health concepts; however, they do not demonstrate significantly more knowledgeable than those that have not received training.  “Oral Presentation in Spanish+Bilingual Training Methods allows the effective understanding of concepts, participants’ interaction in the classroom with an effective scrutiny, and knowledge, of key terminology in English” (Ruano and Sanchez, 2005). Lizzette Vargas-Malpica notes that there is growing interest among governmental agencies in developing safety and health training and technical material in Spanish to help workers overcome language barriers (Vargas-Malpica, 2005).  Conducting training bilingually can be a challenge for the trainer; however, with proper training and support it can be done properly.  There will be additional costs associated with this training for translation and development of training materials in more than one language. The good news is that all students can participate. Hispanic workers often avoid asking for clarification or explanations to prevent embarrassment over their limited English language ability (Vargas-Malpica, 2005).

The trainer of a respiratory hazards class speaks Spanish naturally and English is his second language; however, he speaks it fluently. The instructor provides the instruction in Spanish and has all his handouts in both Spanish and English so that his students can learn the words they will see in the workplace compared to the Spanish words they are familiar with. The trainer begins the class with a Spanish speaking video that introduces the topic. The trainer then goes on to a hands-on demonstration with clear plastic bags of dust, particles, and fibers so each student can specifically see the hazard. The trainer follows this with an explanation of respiratory protective devices and notes the name of each in Spanish and English and refers the students to their hand outs for the actual words in written form. The instructor answers any final questions and gives a quiz in Spanish with terms in English and Spanish.

All around us we read and hear how Americans are older than ever before and that as the Baby Boomers retire there will be a shortage of workers that will require many older workers to continue working.  Aging has an effect on the ability of older workers to learn; however, with minor accommodations older students can learn and retain that learning as effectively as younger students. The methods used for older workers include brain-based learning and situated learning.  Brain based learning is low stress in a collaborative environment. It is filled with a multitude of tasks that occur as life occurs at the job site. This method focuses on twenty minute blocks of time to maintain focus.  The whole learning experience is enriched by multi-media. Situated learning takes place in the social and physical environment so that students can learn from each other in a real setting (Jackson, 2005). For older students it is important to reduce the amount of tasks that require the use of memory. This is done by providing the student with handouts and take home material for them to refer to later. Ensure the classroom or training area is well lit with limited background noises to impair the hearing. Handouts should be on bright white paper with black letters for sharp contrast (Arditi, 2008).  The font style is also important and Dr. Arditi recommends a roman font with a 12 pitch with standard letter and line spacing (Arditi, 2008).  This will not be without some extra cost and work for the trainer. The key is for the trainer to keep the learning interesting so that students of all ages are able to learn without some feeling left out. The payoff is that the entire class can meet the learning objectives without leaving the older students behind. The older student left behind has a higher chance of causing an accident and with the healing response of the older body taking longer than a younger body this employee may be out of work longer.

A trainer is conducting a class on the OSHA accident reporting requirements for supervisors of a local Construction Company. The group has a number of older employees who are wearing reading glasses in the class. The trainer notices that one employee in the back has a hearing aid. The trainer begins with six overhead slides to list a few basic changes. These slides have as few words as possible with 28 pitch font that can easily be read from the back of the classroom. The trainer also uses a white slide with black letters to make the letters easier to read.  As he speaks the trainer uses a pin on microphone so all the students can hear her. She breaks the class up into four groups and gives each group a situation and questions for the group to answer. The handout is on white paper with 12 pitch font which is easy to read. Being in the groups allow the students to discuss the situation and respond to the questions allowing all members of the group to participate. The final assignment of the class is for each student to complete two example forms. These forms are on bright white paper with Times New Roman-12 pitch font so they are easily read. Each student completes the task to standard. The trainer answers any remaining questions and ends the training.

Even after reading this blog entry you may not be excited about making training accessible for all students who attend; however, I hope you will take every opportunity to facilitate learning for all your students. These methods are very important to students in your class who have accessibility issues. Take the information in this essay to heart and make all your training accessible.


– Arditi, Aries.   Making Text Legible: Designing for People with Partial Sight, 2008.  Retrieved from URL on February 11, 2008.

– Campbell, Sharon Lynn, Accessible Training and Presentations, Proceedings Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

– Copeland, Laura, Training that Rocks, Proceedings Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2003, Denver CO.

– Jackson, Alma, Health and Safety in an Aging Workforce, Proceeding Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

– Ruan, Norman and David Sanchez, The Importance of Bilingual (English/Spanish) Workplace Safety and Health Training: Methodologies, Proceeding Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

– Vargas-Malpica, Lizzette, Training in Occupational Safety and Health in Immigrant Communities Tailored to Cultural Backgrounds, Proceeding Paper, American Society of Safety Engineer Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning currently writes biweekly on his blog His published works include the peer-reviewed book Basic Safety Administration-A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. Fred also authored two editions of the peer-reviewed chapter Safety Training and Documentation Principles that was published in the bestselling Safety Professional Handbook and the Safety Professional Handbook Management Applications. He coauthored the peer-reviewed chapter Safety Training with Christine Fiori, Ph.D., PE, published in the bestselling Construction Safety Management and Engineering, second edition edited by Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP. Fred also has several self-published books. He has a series called Fred’s Safety Shorts. This is a collection of twelve books on topics related to safety published with Kindle Direct Publishing. Fred self-published another six books using both CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and Kindle Direct Publishing. He has authored fifty-eight articles in various publications on the topics of safety and health and project management. Fred has earned several writing awards for his non-fiction work. Fred has two novels A Walk Among the Dead and Mystery at Devil’s Elbow.
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