How to Improve Your Safety Training with Storytelling

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Storytelling is not only a great way to grab the attention of an audience, but also a great way to teach.

Safety professionals Abby Ferri, CSP, and Tim Page-Bottorff, CSP, CET, have each leveraged different types of stories to help students remember what they learn during training sessions. Both advise that the best approach is to vary your storytelling strategy depending on the specific audience, class and topic.

“You really have to know your audience prior to arrival,” Page-Bottorff, principal consultant with Total Safety Compliance, explains. “You can engage them with the proper story and story specificity.”

“The best stories are those that have happened to me that I can tell firsthand,” says Ferri, president of The Ferri Group LLC. While she admits to having a few disgusting stories coming out of her experiences at wastewater treatment plants, she says they usually have a happy ending. However, Ferri believes both happy and sad stories have a place. “It is important to remember why we do what we do. People have died doing what they love,” she says.

Page-Bottorff thinks there’s another important reason for storytellers to end upbeat.

“I have performed audits of several trainers, and when they finish with a sad or somber story, the lasting impression on the students is the same as the last story they heard,” he says. “If it’s sad, it is likely something they are more willing to forget.”

While both OSH professionals prefer to tell stories that happened to them first-hand, acknowledging that they can be easier to tell with better accuracy, they say first-hand knowledge is not necessary.

“Effective use of a story involves using facts backed up by news articles or incident summaries provided by regulatory authorities like OSHA,” Ferri says. What’s most important is that the story relates to the topic being discussed so that students instantly make a connection they can keep.

Ferri and Page-Bottorff will share their storytelling successes and lessons learned, and provide tips to help you improve your safety training stories, in Safety 2018 Session 770, “Emotional Safety: Lessons From the True Tales of Two Storytelling Safety Pros” on Wednesday, June 6.

Abby Ferri, CSP, is president of The Ferri Group, LLC., where she provides safety and risk control services to diverse industry groups. She has more than 15 years of experience in the safety and health field in several industries including construction, healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, retail and beverage. Follow her on Twitter @theferrigroup.

Tim Page-Bottorff CSP, CET, is an inspirational certified safety professional who brings over 20 years of occupational health, safety and environmental experience. He has received the coveted ASSE Safety Professional of the Year for Region II and also for the Arizona Chapter. Follow him on Twitter @ptownbotts12.

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