Initiatives in safety training
It’s 3.16am and you’re asleep in your hotel room in South America. Suddenly you are awoken by the sound of a massive explosion, the sound of breaking glass, people screaming and the smell of smoke… You are totally confused and scared.
The emergency lighting flickers on partially and you begin to remember where you are. You race over to the closet and grab at some clothes, “put your suit back on” you say to yourself. Your heart is pumping, your vision is narrowed and your ability to hear is affected. Time feels like it has slowed down so you rush to compensate and you fumble at simple tasks. You bolt out of your room into the corridor and instantly feel a sharp pain. You look down at blood coming from your bare feet. Broken glass is all around and smoke is pouring along the corridor. Which way is the emergency exit? The answer won’t come. You can’t think. All these hotels look the same. “Where should I go?” your head screams at you. Maybe you should stay in your room. You try to open your door but it is now locked. You did not take the room key with you. ”Was that gunfire?” The corridor is filling up with smoke.
A scenario that we all hope we would never be involved in. An incident, however, that could be avoided or dealt with better if staff had received effective safety training from a reputable training provider. Such a provider could simulate real life scenarios to generate behavioural change for the staff on the ground and also the employer managing business travel.
Imagine if there was injury or a death. Let’s jump forward in time to the court case of the employee’s family suing the employer for a variety of charges including corporate manslaughter, compliance and duty of care issues.
Company directors could be faced with some difficult questions, including:
What safety training have your staff received in the last 5 years?
What refresher training has been completed?
What safety equipment have you provided for your staff?
Is the equipment serviceable and in date?
Was a risk assessment completed for the task?
What is the sign off process for staff travelling to fragile or hostile countries?
What are the emergency plans for staff to follow?
Are you going to be liable if there is a tragedy?
Initiatives in safety training in the last 10 years mean with the right provider, companies can feel comforted that their personnel have the best possible chance of dealing with an emergency and are compliant with their legal obligations to their staff.
Protecting your staff
Naturally, every company strives to service their specific clients’ needs, no matter what the obstacles or location. They also, however, need to ensure their personnel are equipped. We have trained and supported a range of clients: from the media in Iraq and Afghanistan, Her Majesty’s Government sending staff to global embassies, to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) supporting communities managing the after-effects of conflict and natural disasters.
Similarly, an effective safety training product begins with assessing the requirements of the client.
How and where do you conduct your business?
What training outcomes must a course deliver?
It is then up to the training provider to design and implement a course of appropriate content and duration to deliver these outcomes.
The benefits of e-learning
All companies have logistical and financial challenges releasing staff from their day jobs and sending them off on training.
E-learning has been promoted as the silver bullet to solve such challenges. There is, however, much mediocre and poor e-learning out there. Personnel can be subjected to hours of boring, text heavy information that is impossible to remember. Effective e-learning should be the distillation of the key information that employees really need to absorb. It should be presented in bite sized chunks and be visually stimulating through graphics, sounds and video scenarios. It should provoke questions and nudge users to learn.
Some courses, including Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT), now include a pre-course e-learning element prior to a practical course. This enables personnel to study in their own time and at their own pace. Personnel then arrive at a focussed practical course ready to learn. This approach makes the most effective use of time away from the office.
Safety training gold standard
The gold standard for safety training includes simulations to develop and test staff in a variety of situations they could find themselves in. One approach that has proven successful is immersing course delegates in a fictitious scenario for the duration of the training: for instance, a made-up conflict zone scenario for media operating in Syria.
This approach can include periodic intelligence updates that staff must react to, realistic role play by professional actors and Hollywood-style special effects to make scenario training come to life. It is no longer just a course, it is total immersion training. We all remember from our childhood an argument or fight we have been involved in, but tend to forget a lesson at school or college. Scenario learning is so effective as a training tool because it tends to etch lessons onto the brain. Adrenaline is the body’s home-made emergency wonder drug. It can make us stronger and run faster.
However, it is estimated that the brain loses up to 80% of its brain computing power when adrenalised. Simple tasks such as applying a bandage or reading a hotel floor plan become very difficult. If you physically keep practising tasks you can ‘hardwire’ this information to the brain. If training can incorporate key skills in this way then personnel are more likely to do the right thing when it counts.
Key course components
Course content will vary depending on the outcomes required. The following, however, are often considered key components:
Pre-departure planning – this is considered the backbone of any successful task at any level and should include contingency options for when a crisis arises.
Personal Safety – the corporate profile of business dress and a laptop bag can attract criminal interest. Staff should learn simple streetwise skills to stay safe. How would staff react if they were mugged at knife point? Would they know what to do?
Vehicle Considerations – statistically you are more likely to be injured or killed in or by a vehicle than anything else. How can you reduce the risk of this happening when self driving or being driven? What about carjacking or taxi crime?
Kidnap Avoidance – kidnapping is a multibillion pound global problem and is getting bigger. How can employees lower their profile to avoid this happening? If they were kidnapped, do they have simple skills that could improve a period as a hostage?
Trauma first aid – in the event of a terrorist bombing incident, emergency services may wait off for up to 45 minutes to ensure there is not a follow- up attack. Knowing how to control a life threatening bleed has been proven to save lives. A female victim of the 7/11 London bombings used a belt as an improvised tourniquet to stop a life threatening femoral artery bleed.
A good training provider should aim to promote behavioural change through an enjoyable learning experience and quantify this through assessments and testing.
Let’s look back at the hotel scenario.
Safety training would ensure that personnel know that:
Physically walking hotel exits hardwires this information to the brain.
Placing easy to put on clothes and shoes near your bed means you waste little time searching for items when you are adrenalised.
Having a torch near your bed means you can see where to go when the lights go out.
Effective safety training is a valuable corporate tool. It allows companies to reach out further, do more business and, above all, do it more safely. Training must be realistic and relevant and promote behavioural change. This will give staff the best chance of looking after themselves during an emergency and makes good business sense at every level. It is, furthermore, the right thing to do.
Pilgrims Group Ltd