Tips For Safety Learning Facilitation

Tips For Safety Learning Facilitation

Guest Post by George Robotham – get George’s new FREE EBook: “Broader Management Skills for the OHS Professional”


OHS people often spend a lot of time facilitating learning, conducting meetings and leading problem solving groups. The following aims to provide succinct advice on carrying out these tasks. I have found over the years that succinct communication is often the best, concentrate on the MUST KNOWS.

Learning needs analysis

L.N.A. is the essential first step in developing effective learning. Without a formal L.N.A. your content will just be guesswork. L.N.A. often reveals what looked initially like requiring a learning fix, actually requires a different type of fix. In a similar manner just about anything you do in safety will benefit from a formal needs analysis. Refer to the paper Learning Needs Analysis by this author.

Build respect / confidence-Use positive reinforcement, Show participants respect, Make time to really listen to participants, Provide opportunities for participants to tell others what they are interested in.

Learning styles-Some people are visual learners (pictures, written words, diagrams etc.), some are auditory learners (hearing the written word) and some are kinaesthetic learners (involvement, action, discussion etc.).You should attempt to use all 3 modes when communicating with people, this will increase their motivation.

Considerations for quality learning

Effective learning is an ongoing process not a one-off event. Learning does not have to be structured, often an informal chat with a content expert from within your own organization will be beneficial. Active involvement and support from the supervisor is essential. Regular learning accompanied by self-analysis, constructive criticism and stimulation by leadership to improve is required.

In his text “How to create and deliver a dynamic presentation” Doug Malouf makes the following points

The 10 major mistakes speakers make

Failing to speak to time-set a time limit, stick to it, be ruthless with self

The material is not suited to the audience-research at least 3 people, what do they know, what would they like to know

Information overload-limit the information, bit size pieces, leave something out

The material is too technical-do not use jargon, know your audience, pitch it to their level

Poor preparation-you’re on before you are on, trust no-one, check everything

Failure to practice speech-practice to an imaginary audience

Distracting visuals/ verbals / vocals

Inappropriate pace-vary your speed

Lack of eye contact-maintain

Lack of enthusiasm


Laurie Kelly of Mindworks, a Brisbane-based company specializing in training trainers gave the following practical tips to trainers during a course this author attended

Change state every 10 minutes-Get up & stretch, move camp, go & get, otherwise have participants move

To gain an understanding of a group’s existing knowledge-ring some a few days before-hand, discuss a topical question in groups.

Time keeping for breaks-get groups to appoint a time keeper

Use music at beginning, breaks switch off to focus on task.

List things you could be doing instead of being here, put them in an envelope at the back of the room and pick up when you leave.

Have a box of chocolate frogs for helpers

When asking for input in a circle use cards to nominate instead of going around in turn

Do not write on white-board yourself, ties you up and you lose eye contact with the group, nominate person with birthday in August

Philosophers walk-At end of day go in pairs and discuss the learnings from the day that are displayed on the charts around the wall.

Use shiny paper not butchers paper, butchers paper draws ink out of pens.

I found Laurie’s workshops to be excellent, he provides great advice for those facilitating learning to maximise participant involvement and interaction.

Force-Field Analysis

Force-field analysis is a technique I have found extremely valuable in OHS, it is adaptable to a wide range of applications. Refer to the paper on this topic by this author.

Force-field analysis (similar to S.W.O.T. analysis) is a simple, yet powerful technique, useful at the beginning of a project to define the nature of the beast you are dealing with. It is particularly useful when seeking to develop new Management Systems or revise old ones.

1 Brainstorm an objective or objectives for the Management System .

2 Brainstorm the promoting / facilitating forces acting towards the objective.

3 Brainstorm the constraining / restraining forces acting against the objective.

4 Develop an action plan to boost the facilitating / promoting forces and negate the constraining / restraining forces.

One of the outcomes of the above discussion is that you will define a number of the good things you are already doing in the area being considered, in itself, not a bad thing.

Always make sure you feedback the results of the discussions to the participants and, once decided, what actions resulted from the discussions.

The deliberations above may assist in the development of strategic and operational management plans.

Advantages of force-field analysis

Involves a wide cross-section of stakeholders in meaningful discussions about the topic

Places a high profile on the topic

Helps with defining and documenting the things you are already doing in the area

Helps to identify the deficiencies in the current Management System

With a highly skilled facilitator helps to develop innovative solutions and improvements

For complex issues and / or a large group 2.5-3 hours may be required. The process can be hard work and tiring, monitor how people are going and possibly schedule a second session. Have regular short, sharp breaks.

Very important-Have water & glasses on the table, fruit if possible, aids concentration

Facilitating problem solving groups

An excellent book on facilitating problem solving groups is Teachers as Facilitators by Dr. Merv. Wilkinson, Catalyst of Change, at about $25 it is a good buy.


The above practical tips will enhance your facilitation. Detailed session design and preparation is essential. Do not be surprised if you have to spend 10 times the sessions length in preparation. Like many things in life, Prior Preparation And Planning Prevents P–s Poor Performance.


See the main paper Adult Learning Principles and Process-Back to Basics which is available on request from

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

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