The power of trigger points in safety training

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Risk managers always ask me – why is your safety training so effective?  My answer – Trigger Points and a basic understanding of adult learning.  But let’s forget about the adult learning component for just a minute.  Trigger points can elevate any safety training program – even an extremely boring annual training.  So, how do you build trigger points into your safety training?  Let’s take a look.

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is well described in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, but in essence it is the little thing that triggers you to act or respond to a particular event.  The phone rings – you answer it.  The boss says, I would like to talk to you in my office, your heart races.  Some triggers are so quick and so far under the radar we don’t even know we are reacting to them.

Why are triggers so important?

If we can identify the trigger points and then we can change our response to them while still achieving the same satisfaction of responding to the trigger.  This is how we change habits.  Good or bad habits, it doesn’t matter, identifying the triggers is what is allows you to replace the bad response with a positive response.

Building triggers into safety training

Now we know what a trigger is and what it does, how do we build it into our safety training?  We have to start by identifying the right trigger.  Let’s take trip and falls for example.   Organization G has a bunch of people who trip on their shoe laces.  The obvious trigger for training would be to show a shoe lace or remind the staff to tie their shoe.  But is that really the trigger that gets people to  tie their shoe?  Not hardly.

Think long and hard about when you tie your shoes – when you first put them on in the morning?  Most people do this everyday and it is not normally this morning ritual that causes the problem.  Maybe the knot they chose to tie, but not tying them for the first time.

It is the re-tying of the laces later in the day once they have come undone.  The real trigger should be – when they start to walk around after periods of inactivity.  Let’s look at some examples: sitting at their desk, sitting in a meeting, driving their car to work, getting up from lunch, etc.  In each of the these examples, we have to think about the process that a person goes thru when they get up to walk.  Let’s look more deeply at the driving their car to work example.

Upon arrival to work, the person will get out of their car and walk into the building.  They will have to put the car in park, turn off the car, take the keys out, put their keys away, grab their things and open the door to get out of the car.  Now we have to look for the common trigger here.  Something that everyone will do.  Some people won’t have things to grab, so that’s out.  Some people have the new key-less ignitions, so that’s out too.  Everyone will need to put their car in park, but that seems too early in the cycle for a trigger point.  The best trigger is opening the door to get out of the car.  When they put their foot on the ground, we want them to look at their shoe and verify the lace is tied.  So, opening the door is our trigger point.  Now we can build video, images, and discussion around this trigger and get people to change their habit of just getting up and walking away.

Triggers in action

We built more than 6 triggers in our new Don’t Fall safety training video.   See if you can identify the trigger points, then over the next week ask yourself – am I thinking about these situations when I walk my campus?

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