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Tell me a story: using stories to improve occupational safety training.

Proceedings of the American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development and Conference, Orlando, Florida, June 24-27, 2007. Des Plaines, IL: American Society of Safety Engineers, 2007 Jun; :1-10
Human beings are natural storytellers and story listeners. We learn very early that stories entertain us, but also give us the "rules" about what is expected of us and how to make meaning of our experiences. Stories are integral to our lives, and have great power to change or influence how we think or how we react. They are an innate part of how we learn, and have obvious benefits to trainers or educators who are trying to impact what and how we learn. This paper and presentation discuss the social and cultural power of stories, and how they have been used to develop training for skilled blue-collar workers. Included will be examples as well as suggestions for trainers on where to find stories, what type of stories to pay attention to, and how to use them to improve occupational safety training. The project funded as a small pilot-project by NIOSH in 1998, and subsequently funded for six more years, had the goal of creating effective training for the mining industry. The nine videos that were eventually produced were developed in operating mines, using real miners as the role models and teachers. They used the stories told within the industry to convey specific safety awareness messages and they did it in a way that was interesting and accepted by the occupational culture of the trainees. Evaluation studies have shown that the videos are effective, but perhaps their wide distribution in the industry could also be viewed as another measure of acceptance. The videos are provided free of charge to trainers, but SRL/NIOSH has been asked to replace them constantly. The miners, it seems, are "borrowing" them from the trainers and taking them home to show their families. If two necessary keys to effective training are getting the attention of trainees and gaining cultural acceptance of the messages taught, the NIOSH videos would appear to have succeeded. There is no reason to believe these lessons would not be useful for other industries.
Mining-industry; Teaching; Training; Education; Underground-mining; Safety-research; Injuries; Ground-control; Explosives; Hazards; Safety-programs; Safety-practices; Miners; Underground-miners; Mine-workers; Workers; Mine-fires; Nonmetal-mining; Mining-equipment; Safety-education; Work-environment; Injury-prevention; Occupational-hazards; Safety-measures; Environmental-factors; Environmental-hazards
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Proceedings of the American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division