SAN ANTONIO — Safety trainers should rethink their approach to teaching life-or-death protocols and procedures, as 54% of Americans read at a fifth-grade reading level or below, according to safety consultants.
U.S. employers face widespread “non-obvious” learning challenges, said Gwen Navarrete Klapperich, chief learning consultant for Kapolei, Hawaii-based Klapperich International Training Associates LLC, during a Tuesday session on inclusive safety training and diverse learners at Safety 2023, the American Society of Safety Professionals annual conference .
In addition to those with low literacy, a large number of employees may include people with dyslexia, people who are color blind and cannot reach charts, people with vision or hearing problems and people who are not native speakers of English, she said.
And only about half of them would disclose any difficulties to their employer, according to co-presenter Ron Klapperich, a senior consultant at Klapperich International Training Associates.
“If you think about your safety training classes, there̵7;s a chance you have someone who has a disability who won’t tell you or won’t tell their employer out of fear,” Navarrete Klapperich said.
The security industry should embrace the concept of universal design when creating training programs, she said. Universal design is when an environment is designed to help the least able but benefit everyone, Klapperich said.
The pair told attendees to think of everyday examples: automatic doors to shops to help those in wheelchairs but also anyone pushing a cart, and speakerphones for those who struggle to hold a receiver but are beneficial for multitaskers or meetings.
When applied to safety training, this means presenting the material in the simplest format, Klapperich said. “Unfortunately, most safety training is designed for people in the middle of the aisle” in terms of learning ability, he said.
“You want to use the simplified instructions. … You want to use words that are understandable, plain language. Try to avoid jargon or overly technical language that people don’t understand. If a simpler word is better, use it,” said Navarrete Klapperich.