Let’s face it, while working in a laboratory can be a rewarding experience, contributing to scientific breakthroughs or making meaningful contributions to healthcare, there’s one aspect to the job that isn’t quite as exciting for many workers … training.
The process of learning about safety in the lab can be seen as dull or tedious, particularly for lab workers who have already been exposed to similar training in the past. Yet while some training is required for the job to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in laboratory work, the process doesn’t have to consist of old training videos and stale lectures.
Interspersing lab safety activities throughout your training schedule can not only increase engagement among your employees, but improve retention of these important lab safety rules and guidelines they must know. Here are a few ways to use a lab safety activity to take your safety meetings to the next level.
Demonstrate Learned Material
To break up the monotony that often comes with training, split participants into small groups and have them demonstrate a scenario that reflects what they learned in a particular safety category.
For example, if the category is fire safety, each team could demonstrate the steps to take in the event of a fire. They could simulate a fire drill, complete with an evacuation plan and demonstration of how to use a fire extinguisher.
If your safety training involves how to respond in the event of an employee injury, encourage a team to demonstrate the correct steps to take in administering first aid to an injured colleague. Each team member could take on a specific role, such as assessing the situation, calling for emergency services, and providing basic first aid until help arrives.
By allowing participants to apply what they’ve learned in a practical setting, they will not only retain the information better but also become more confident in their ability to handle real-life situations.
Breakup Lectures With Games
Games can be a great opportunity to quiz lab workers on safety protocols while breaking up an afternoon of training. Examples of games you can use during training include:
- Safety ‘Jeopardy’: Create a ‘Jeopardy’-style game that includes safety-related questions, and organize employees into teams to compete against each other.
- Safety Bingo: Create bingo cards with safety-related hazards, and hand them out to employees during the meeting. As hazards are discussed, employees can mark off the corresponding squares on their cards.
- Scavenger Hunt: Hide safety hazards or violations around the workplace and challenge employees to find them. This activity can encourage employees to be more aware of their surroundings and identify potential hazards.
- Safety ‘Pictionary’: Divide employees into teams and have them take turns drawing safety hazards while the other team members try to guess what they are.
- Safety Trivia: Create a trivia game with safety-related questions and have employees compete against each other for a top prize.
Offering prizes can further encourage employees to participate in the games. Rewards can include anything from movie passes and restaurant gift certificates to paid time off.
Engage With Safety Talks
Inviting guest speakers to give talks on relevant safety topics can be a great way to provide employees with new perspectives and insights into safety.
Guest speakers can include safety experts, experienced scientists or individuals who have had personal experiences with a safety incident or accident. Their experiences can help employees to understand the importance of safety practices and the lesson of not following them.
Guest speakers can also provide information on new safety technologies, industry trends and best practices, which can help employees stay up-to-date with the latest safety information.
After inviting a guest speaker to your lab, inform the speaker of the specific safety concerns and protocols of the laboratory so they can tailor their talk accordingly. This is an easy way to help the speaker to provide more relevant and meaningful information to employees, as well as address specific safety concerns or issues that may be unique to the laboratory.
Conduct Mock Drills
Mock drills simulate emergency situations like fires or chemical spills and can be an important resource for a facility. They can help lab workers to understand what to do during real-life emergencies and ensure that everyone knows the evacuation routes and safety procedures.
To make mock drills more effective, it's important to plan them ahead of time and to inform all employees about the date and time. This will help to ensure that everyone is prepared and that the drill runs smoothly.
Other tips include:
- Be realistic. The more realistic the drill, the more effective it will be. For example, you can use smoke machines or other tools to simulate the effects of a fire.
- Evaluate and debrief. After the drill is complete, evaluate the results and debrief with employees. Discuss what worked well and what could be improved, and make any necessary adjustments to the safety plan.
- Test different scenarios. It’s important to test different scenarios in mock drills to ensure that employees are prepared for a range of emergencies. This could include scenarios such as chemical spills or power outages.
- Involve everyone. Make sure that everyone in the lab is involved in the drill, including new employees who may not have experienced a mock drill before. This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of the safety procedures and evacuation routes.
By following these tips, you can make mock drills more effective and ensure that employees are well-prepared in the event of an emergency.
An Engaging Experience
Safety is a critical component of laboratory work, but it doesn’t have to be a boring experience. Incorporating a laboratory safety activity such as demonstrations, games, safety talks and mock drills can increase engagement and retention, and can be the perfect addition to your facility’s safety procedures that are already in place.
These activities offer a practical and interactive way for lab workers to learn and practice safety protocols while making them better equipped to handle real-life emergencies.