Safety Training and Learning Tips

Professor and student wearing protective eye wear in lab

Training and Tips

Risk vs. Safety

Safety is often thought of as binary – I’m safe or I’m not safe.  But real life isn’t this way – it’s much more nuanced.  So, instead of safety, let’s talk about risk.

Risk is the probability (odds or likelihood) or a negative outcome (impact, consequence, damage, or harm).  This is often visually displayed as a risk table or matrix (see example). 

An example is crossing a street.  The negative outcome is being hit by a vehicle and getting hurt or dying.  If I’m in a crosswalk with lights and I obey the “Don’t walk” signal, my risk is low.  If I cross without looking or obeying the signal with traffic coming, my risk is high.   

Although it requires a bit more thinking, risk is a much more useful, accurate, and helpful way to discuss safety.

Better and worse practices


  • Team approaches that encourage support and concern for others and group goals
  • Demonstrating care for the wellbeing of others
  • Embed risk into our processes (discussing, assessing, communicating)
  • Leading indicators / proactive (e.g., anything before an incident, checklists, discussions, risk assessing)
  • Strong psychological safety (i.e., trust, all can speak up without fearing being shot down)


  • Blaming others, finger pointing, lack of personal accountability
  • Rigid compliance approaches (only focusing on complying with rules to the deficit of culture focus drivers)
  • Lagging indicators / reactive only (e.g., anything after an incident, injury reports, claims, OSHA recordables, lost time, etc.)
  • Lack of accountability, not problem-solving, not looking for root causes
  • Lack of engaging about safety culture and risk (not digging into risk odds and impacts, root causes, etc.)

Training Tips

  • Assess the need(s) – some needs aren’t solvable with training (e.g., behaviors, supplies, morale, etc.)
  • Develop strong learning objectives (“At the end of the session, learners will be able to …” – use Bloom’s taxonomy)
  • Use an effective instructional design model of process (e.g., Malcolm Knowles adult learning principles, ADDIE)
  • Create and facilitate active learning approaches and methods (and not  passive ones)
  • Assess the specified learning competencies (and tests aren’t usually the best way to do so)
  • Evaluate the learning activity (use Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels)
  • Make changes for better effectiveness (because there is always a next time!)

The College of Engineering has a dynamic program to facilitate a culture of safety.  Some of these initiatives include:

  • A Director of Strategic Change in Safety Culture and Programs to help drive our efforts
  • A safety culture and risk team of career staff throughout the College
  • A Faculty Safety Culture Advisory Committee
  • A Graduate Student Safety Culture Advisory Committee
  • Our safety culture and risk survey of all graduate students, faculty, and staff in the College
  • A series of monthly safety/health learning events
  • A holistic view and frame for our approaches to safety culture and risk
  • And more to come!