Training is an essential part of every safety program. Crew training provides an opportunity to focus on workplace hazards, operations, procedures, tools, equipment, and employees' attitudes. There are two basic types of safety training: formal and what we call "tailgate" meetings.

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Formal safety meetings are scheduled in advance, and workers are informed of the topics or issues to be addressed. The objectives are to provide both knowledge of and motivation for working safely.

Informal or "tailgate" meetings are brief on-the-job training sessions, usually involving a single worksite or crew. These meetings are typically only 10 or 15 minutes long and focus on a single topic. For example, workers might discuss a new tool and possible causes for a recent accident or near-miss situation.

The training format should be chosen on the basis of the topic and objectives of the training. While lecturing workers may be the least expensive and most commonly used training method, workers pay less attention to information given in a lecture than they do to hands-on learning experiences. Other good methods for providing training include videos and DVD, case studies, and live demonstrations. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to follow up on the presentation with discussion, questions, or a quiz to ensure that workers understand the topic.

Trainers often incorporate several training methods in their programs to increase interest and accommodate the different learning styles of all the workers. For example, a meeting might include a combination of lecture, a videotape, and hands-on demonstration of a tool or piece of equipment.

The length of the meeting is determined by the topic, but it is best to keep it short and simple. Having brief safety meetings of 10 to 20 minutes once a week over the course of a month is usually more effective than a single two-hour training session once a month.

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During these meetings, whether they are formal or informal, address the real problems and safety issues found on the job. Discuss work practices, machinery, tools, equipment, materials, attitudes, or anything else that may cause or contribute to an injury, accident, or near- miss. Keep the topic relevant. Talk about equipment that is actually being used or tasks that are upcoming and present safety concerns.

Choose topics that you think need safety review. If you notice that spills are not being cleaned up promptly and that slips and falls have occurred, discuss that topic. If there has been an accident or a near-miss using a tool, dissect that incident. Encourage workers to participate in the training, by having them suggest topics or asking them to pick videotapes. Workers often know best what and where the dangers on each jobsite really are.

Trainers should gather information on the topic several days in advance and select topics that hit close to home and are meaningful to the workers. Taking these steps should insure that your training sessions are successful.

Peter Kuchinsky is a safety writer and the owner of CBA Construction Safety Check in Vista, CA.