Safety and Action Learning LO5330

estevam de toledo (
Sun, 4 Feb 1996 00:14:20 -0200

Replying to LO5091 At 15:46 24/01/96 +1100, John Sleigh wrote:

>In August 1994, 11 underground coal miners were killed in an explosion at
>Moura Mine in Queensland, Australia.
>A report by an investigating commission has just been handed down , which,
>among other things, highlights a need for training to prevent a
>I have grave concerns that the outcome could well be mandatory training on
>complex technical issues which are beyond the capacity of the trainees to


Here's a brief description of the efforts done by an interdisciplinary
group, formed by HRD professionals, Physicians, Safety Engineers and
Production Engineers to help a certain wiredrawing industry to find the
best way to motivate its members to win the battle against accidents. The
description shows that there is in fact a learning process flowing behind
the efforts done by the group, and that progress was reached in a gradual
way. It also shows that training can really be the way out for these
situations, but that there are traps to be avoided during the journey. One
might say, for instance, that instead of preparing people to really act in
favour of accident prevention, we may simply end up preparing them *to
talk about accidents*, or teaching them how to do accident analysis
instead of having them prepared to do risk analysis and act immediately
upon its results. We should not forget that at work, especially in those
situations where danger is an inherent part of the job, what really is at
stake is the lives of people.

Yes, we had a rather serious situation in a wiredrawing plant a few years
ago. Evidences showed that the company's executives were totally committed
to safety. Nevertheless, monthly statistics and the daily work routine
showed an escalating tendency towards the expansion of both human and
material losses all over the plant. Reports on the situation also
highlighted a need for training to prevent recurrences.

A first analysis of the existing training scheme showed that the
instructional strategy was chiefly centered on what certain authors call
the "moralistic method", and that we could call the "lecture method". This
approach leaves plenty of room for physicians, safety engineers and other
professionals to *talk* to workers, hoping that their messages will change
workers's attitudes. But sadly, it frequently doesn't.

We did a review of our instructional strategy and reformulated it. First
of all, we agreed to reduce the number of lectures that were done.
Secondly, we decided to emphasize the use of group discussion sessions
together with some role playing activities, adding to this some two or
three films on accident prevention plus a hands-on experience during a
mocking firebrigade situation. We trained more than 300 Supervisors under
this new format during a 20 hours course, given to 15 groups of 20
Supervisors each.

Acting as course organizers/facilitators/change agents we were really
impressed with the elegant approach we had finally came to offer to our
audience. Judging by the signals we could get during the training process,
together with the results showed by a final reaction evaluation session,
we thought that Supervisors would now change their attitudes and that they
would start acting in favour of accident prevention when back to the
workplace. We were wrong: they didn't. Reports revealed that accidents
continued to happen significantly.

We then started to review our instructional strategy again. We decided to
deemphasize the lecture/workshop approach and started to emphasize what we
could call an "action-learning approach". To do that we did get a lot of
inspiration from the ideas of Reginald Revans. According to Revans,
effective learning will take place if action is granted a significant
space within the instructional strategy. (For more on Revans, please see
McNulty, Nancy, in T&D Journal, Madison, march, 1979).

Now, finally we had a new format and a new strategy. Instead of a training
course project we seemed to have achieved a sort of "task force" project
with a clear mission to be accomplished: to detect and eliminate all
possible signs of existing non-conformances that might be found in a
certain Sector of a certain Department, that might come to contribute or
result in an accident. Each group was formed by 7 Supervisors in all and
structured in a way so that 2 Supervisors of the chosen Sector would act
as hosts to the other 5 Supervisors coming from different Sectors of
different Departments. Each group was given around 40 hours to accomplish
the mission. Those problems that were beyond the capacity of the group to
solve or influence were passed on to the Department or to another group
especially created to solve the remaining problems. A complete description
of the project was presented during a monthly general meeting on accident
prevention matters held by the General Managers. Finally, statistics and
other evidences started to show a steady decline of accidents in the
plant. This new way was certainly the best one among the others we had
tried before.

Well, John. I'm not sure if the description I did will answer the
suggestion you did in your post for the starting of a discussion on the
subject, but I thought these reflexions might help at least as a sarter.
Thanks. Best regards. Toledo.


Work: Belgo Mineira Sistemas Ltda. Av. Brasil, 1654 - Fax: (031)273-64-24 CEP 30140-003 - Belo Horizonte - MG - Brazil.

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