Using Stories to Teach Safety Practical, Research-Based Tips
- Mitch Ricketts (Northeastern State University)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- May 2015
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 51 - 57
- 2015. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 33 since 2007
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- Training and information can have a powerful impact on safety-related attitudes and behavior - especially when messages incorporate educational stories about particular workplace tragedies.
- Safety professionals can create customized messages based on injury cases that are freely available from various sources.
- All safety stories are not equally effective. This article includes research-based tips for selecting stories and telling them in ways that have the greatest impact.
Employee training and information programs are widely recognized as important components of workplace safety and health (Robson, Stephenson, Schulte, et al., 2010). Informational programs are so important that research teams around the world have spent decades exploring the special qualities that make certain safety and health messages more effective than others. Among the most promising outcomes of these efforts is a growing understanding that people tend to change their safety-related behavior after hearing compelling stories about others who have suffered injuries and illnesses. Indeed, safety stories seem to have a remarkable power to convey the personal relevance of this information. The power of story-based messages has been discussed in past issues of Professional Safety (e.g., Cullen, 2008, 2011; Spieholz, Clark & Sjostrom, 2007). As readers make increasing use of story-based safety messages, a need will arise for guidelines that aid in the design of these interventions. With this in mind, this article sets forth a list of research-based tips for developing effective story- based communications.
What Are Stories?
A story (e.g., narrative, anecdote, case) is an account of events that take place over time. An effective story describes a single event that has powerfully affected the life of one person (or one group). Nonstory information, on the other hand, consists of broad rules, explanations and statistics that are generalized from many events in broader populations.Stories are important because they show how the lives of real people are changed by singular incidents. In a complementary fashion, generalized, nonstory information is important because it helps an audience understand a range of facts that are relevant in broader contexts. Effective communication includes a balanced mix of general facts, along with anecdotes that illustrate how those facts can play out in everyday life.
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