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Visual aids can make lasting impact in safety training: ASSE speaker

Visual aids can make lasting impact in safety training: ASSE speaker

ORLANDO, Fla. — Good visual aids improve workplace safety by illustrating safeguards and hazards in a way all workers, including those who are illiterate or speak a language other than English, can understand, according to a speaker at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Safety 2014 conference.

Even if workers can comprehend written materials, they’re more likely to remember something visual said Linda Tapp, Madison, New Jersey-based president of SafetyFUNdamentals, speaking at a session Monday about the importance of illustrations, photos and infographics in safety training.

A good visual aid is one that’s easily recognizable, appealing to look at and understood by workers regardless of their reading level or the language they speak, Ms. Tapp said.

Pointing to an example of an ineffective safety poster of a coffin with the caption, “Working with electricity can be dangerous,” she said a bad safety visual is one that can’t stand alone without a lengthy description.

“The only thing they showed was a coffin,” she said. Without the caption, “you have to make that connection in your head that it’s related to everything else.”

It’s best when the image does most of the talking, Ms. Tapp said, showing another poster of a cartoon character getting electrocuted. “Even though it’s a little cartoony, this one is a lot easier to understand,” she said.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide safety training that all workers can understand, Ms. Tapp said. Some companies might think it’s enough to post safety materials in English and Spanish, but visual aids that are accompanied by “a few words are more likely to make an impact,” she said.

As an occupational safety adviser for Princess Cruises Ltd., Joe McCormack, who attended the session, said he only uses visual training tools, for the most part.

“We have (crew members) coming from 48 different countries,” some of whom don’t speak any English when they start, Mr. McCormack said.

“I use picture training and videos to my advantage to get the message out” about safety issues, such as slip and trip hazards, crush injuries and chemical hazards, he said: “Lots of pictures of broken fingers.”

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