Safety first

by Emily Wilson
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As a new safety director for a small group of elevators some 10 years ago, Dave Nicewicz found himself faced with an inspection by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at one of the company’s facilities. His first reaction was to ask why OSHA was "picking" on them.

But after the inspection, Nicewicz was embarrassed by the poor safety procedures in place at that facility. Specifically, he remembers an employee whose job it was to spray an insecticide inside a grain bin. The respirator the employee was wearing that day was not only not the proper one for the job, but it was dirty, missing a valve and one of the straps was ripped and hanging by threads.

The employee didn’t know the respirator was not adequate for the job. The plant manager didn’t know he was exposing one of his employees to a serious health hazard.

"No one knew because they were not properly trained," Nicewicz recalls.

Today, Nicewicz keeps that unsafe, inadequate respirator hanging by his desk to remind him that serious problems may result when employees are not properly trained.

"The least of my problems that day was OSHA," Nicewicz told an audience of grain operations professionals at the Grain Elevator and Processing Society’s annual technical conference earlier this year in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. "We needed to make sure that everyone knew their jobs and how to do them safely. We shouldn’t have to ask our employees to give up their health or safety for the sake of the job."

Nicewicz has compiled a resource document that summarizes safety areas required by OSHA to be reviewed annually as well as those areas that require periodic training. (For a copy of Nicewicz’s safety training resource, and safety review areas, contact World Grain at He also addressed how to plan for training and develop effective training skills.


PLANNING FOR TRAINING. Each grain facility should develop a lesson plan, Nicewicz said, that includes a list of basic safety areas to review during the training session. He recommended also including areas to make the training more site-specific, such as specific work rules and other unique requirements.

"The main thing is to plan what you want to cover during training for each subject by writing it down," Nicewicz said. "You can then refine or change your plan as employees or facility conditions change."

How the training is presented is almost as important as the content, Nicewicz said. A person who is asked to read the training material may only retain 10% of the content, while those who hear someone else read the material will retain about 20% of the material. About 30% of the content is remembered by watching a video, but up to 50% is remembered from a demonstration. These types of training are known as "passive learning."

A person who participates in the discussion is likely to remember 70% of the content, and up to 90% of the material can be retained if the person actually participates in the training. This is called "active learning."

Nicewicz said it was important to be well prepared and to know your subject but to understand other factors that affect the training session. "Analyze your audience," he said. "Review a list of who will be attending the training meeting. If they do not know each other, you might want to provide introductions and name tags.

"Determine what they already know about the subject and focus on new material or review materials where it is obvious that rules are not being followed."

Dress appropriately for your audience. Don’t wear a three-piece suit to make a training presentation to workers in the plant, Nicewicz said. Make eye contact and plan for questions and comments.

Always start the training by having a goal in place of what information you want the employees to know, then focus the training on ways to achieve that goal. It is not normally adequate training to simply watch a video. Videos can make some points clearer, but should not be the entire content of the training meeting.

Nicewicz uses five methods when conducting a training session: subject presentation and discussion, demonstrations, partial subject training meetings, guest speakers and skits.

Subject presentation and discussion. The presenter leads the discussion by talking about, not reading, the main issues. Start with an agenda that includes all items that need to be covered. Include examples from your own plant or past experiences.

Encourage group discussion by asking pointed questions about the subject. Show a short video that makes the point you are trying to make.

Ask for questions at the end of the training and give a short quiz (10 to 15 questions) to see if the audience understood the material. Don’t make the questions too hard or too tricky. Discuss all of the answers after everyone is finished taking the quiz.

Demonstrations. Conduct the training in an area of the plant that can be used to show the technique being discussed. Demonstrate the proper procedures for doing the task, such as locking out a complex piece of equipment, safe procedures for entering a confined space, safety precautions to take before doing hot work, approved lifting procedures, housekeeping inspections or proper use and maintenance of a fall protection system.

After the demonstration, go to another part of the plant and ask one or two persons in the group to demonstrate the technique to see how well they learned the procedure. Testing should include watching each person perform an assigned task properly and completely.

"Demonstrations, when done properly, are excellent ways to really make an impression upon the class," Nicewicz said. "Just be prepared before the class. Try out the procedures to make sure you can do it properly, have all the necessary equipment on hand and make notes of the points you want to emphasize."

Partial subject training meetings. Sometimes there is not enough time to conduct a training session over a complete topic. You may want to cover parts of the training at each session and complete the topic in two or three sessions, each one 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

Lockout training, for example, might be broken down into three sessions. The first would review the procedures to apply a lock, test a machine, and remove the lock. The second session would review the group lockout procedure, how to assign the primary authorized person and his or her responsibilities. The final session might cover when to use a tagout, limitations of tag use, how to switch locks during a shift change and information about a contractor’s lockout program.

Although there is little free time during a month, a thorough review of a procedure could be completed by a well-prepared training, Nicewicz said. "Weekly meetings can be very habit-forming and become a useful part of the operation," he said.

Guest speakers. Guest speakers can bring a different perspective to a subject. For instance, bring in a respiratory equipment supplier, a forklift service technician, a bobcat dealer, a safety specialist or industrial hygienist, fire extinguisher service technician, a professional welder or a company executive.

Always make it clear to the speaker exactly what material you want them to cover. Provide any props and set a definite time limit on the presentation. And always have a back-up plan in case the speaker does not show up.

Skits. Another way to add variety to your training is to act out a skit. These can be fun and entertaining and will make a striking memory.


CERTIFICATION. When certification is required, it generally maintains that employees have attended training and understood the material presented. Some type of testing is needed to measure comprehension.

Documentation of the training should include the date that training took place, the name of the trainer, the topic of
the training session (one topic per
document), the starting time and a list
of items to cover during the session.

Training documentation also should list the resources used during the training and any videos used. Note that employees were asked if they had any safety concerns and list any that were brought up and the status of any previous concerns that had not been resolved. Finally, note the time the training ended, quiz scores and have each employee print and sign their name.

There are many ways to document a training meeting. One is an individual record: "On this date, (the employee’s name) has been trained and is qualified to (perform which task) based on the proficiency review results achieved during the training session. As the trainer for this material, I certify that the employee named above is properly trained and competent in this area." The trainer then signs his name and dates the documentation, listing a summary of the training involved and the method used to determine competency.

A group training record summarizes the material covered and includes the name and signature of each employee participating, in addition to the method of competency.

A personal safety training record summarizes the training received by a specific employee for a variety of topics over a number of years. This form lists the month, day and year of each specific area of safety training.

The effect of a successful training program will be reduced accidents and more efficient operations by a well-trained, safety-conscious workforce, Nicewicz said. "The benefit of your efforts of training is made to the whole organization,"
he added.