3 Ways to Shake Off Safety Training Complacency

Why do workers suffer injuries after safety training? Is the material boring? Maybe the techniques are outdated? Here are a few ways to make safety stick.
By: | November 29, 2018 • 6 min read

Why do so many workers suffer injuries after safety training?


It could be that the training was so boring they simply tuned out, or it could be that they were cutting too many corners and violated OSHA rules — or it could even be that they were inadvertently taught techniques that ultimately do more harm than good.

Safety training can be greatly enhanced by employing alternative techniques, like humor or predictive technology. Here’s a few ways these alternative methods work:

1) PowerLift training: a wide-stance lifting technique that takes the back entirely out of the lift.

“The problem with the lifting technique taught by most back safety programs — the ‘power squat’ — is that it puts the lifter into an unstable position on the balls of his or her feet and involves a deep knee bend that most people simply can’t do repeatedly,” said Joel Copeland, chief operating officer at KMI Learning in Columbus, Ohio.

“The consequence of this is that workers revert to simple back lifts, because the ‘bad old way’ of lifting seems easier and quicker than the deep squat.”

However, the problem with a back lift is that the lifter is not only lifting the weight of the load but also the weight of his or her upper body, all putting strain on the lifter’s lower back, Copeland said.

Dr. Mike Schaefer, creator, PowerLift back safety program

Dr. Mike Schaefer, who for many years had a practice as a chiropractor and was board certified in orthopedics, saw so many injured backs in his practice that he began to analyze body mechanics and came up with a set of lifting techniques and a unique and patented instructional design system: the PowerLift.

One case study involved two very similar road construction companies owned by one parent company that allowed local management latitude in choosing suppliers, including safety programs. One of the subsidiaries adopted the PowerLift back safety program and one opted for a traditional program that taught the “squat lift.” Over a 13-year period, the company that implemented PowerLift lost $325,000 while the other company lost $1,308,000.

Said another client, Kevin Fowler, safety director at the Dakota Electric Association: “The most impressive number associated with injuries has come from an $80,000 refund from our workers’ comp group.”

The PowerLift training system includes a library of more than 1,200 one-page safety talks to be used at start-of-shift meetings that cover on-the-job material handling challenges as well as at-home challenges, Copeland said. “These are critical in sustaining the program over time. We also have online courses, but we do not recommend them as the first contact.”

KMI Learning has since purchased the PowerLift company from Schaefer. The staff training module is intended to be used for new hires between live training sessions and for remedial use and the Train-the-Trainer (TTT) online course is intended for re-certification.

“We always recommend in-person TTT training as the first step in a client’s implementation of PowerLift,” Copeland said.

2) PEC Predictive: a compliance management platform tool that helps employers better predict risk and help prevent workplace injuries.

“Informed by more than 42 million data points, PEC’s proprietary predictive modeling system, built in collaboration with Predictive Solutions, gives owner clients monthly insight into the risk levels of their contractors,” said Colby Lane, CEO of PEC Safety in Mandeville, Louisiana. “That data is used to rank the likelihood of a recordable incident over a 90-day period.”

The algorithm evaluates risk based on a set of standard safety questions that could be asked for any worker in a high-hazard job, Lane explained.

The tool is especially useful for companies that hire contractors, such as large oil and gas companies that hire drilling companies, which need to verify and identify the contractors’ workforce risk related to OSHA, safety or insurance information.

Contractors are ranked into one of three categories — standard, elevated or high risk — based on machine learning technology that identifies patterns in the contractor’s safety questionnaire data compiled by PEC, which pinpoints when injuries are likely to occur, he said.


Rankings are fed directly back into PEC’s contractor management platform, Compliance Pro, for hiring clients to view.

“Along with risk levels, hiring clients can view the top three contributing factors to the contractor’s ranking — sometimes it’s a lack of updated insurance coupled with a high volume of work or a number of OSHA violations within the past three years,” Lane said.

Highlighting these risk factors, as well as a contractor’s ranking compared to their peers, allows both parties to focus their limited risk mitigation resources where they are most likely to prevent a workplace injury, he said.

“For example, instead of conducting blind field audits, clients could require high-risk contractors to complete specified safety training or complete a risk mitigation plan,” Lane said.

PEC plans to expand the use case of PEC Predictive to allow more visibility and greater benefits to safer contractors, he said. For example, insurance agencies could leverage this data to better underwrite contractors and potentially offer discounts to lower-risk contractors based on PEC Predictive.

3) Gamification and the use of humor in training.

Jeffrey Dalto, instructional designer and eLearning advisor at Convergence Training in Camas, Washington, posted a question to safety professionals on several LinkedIn groups: “What do you do to make your safety training more fun and engaging for your employees?” One safety trainer wrote that the company used Jeopardy-style games, competition and candy bars.

“Training or reviewing OSHA standards can be dry and hard to swallow,” the trainer wrote. “We used the Jeopardy format and divided the sessions in half to do a review after the training.  … Competition is always there, and points and candy bars mark the win. When the first session goes through it, the word is out and people show up with thinking caps on.”

Colby Lane, CEO, PEC Safety

There are many ways to make training more entertaining so that workers are more likely to pay attention, remember the training and apply it to their jobs, Dalto said in an interview.

“One way is to use humor, which can also help reduce anxiety among learners, especially if the training requires people to be interactive,” he said. “It can be a good icebreaker and help learners feel like this is a safe place to interact and that they don’t need to be so nervous.”

Another benefit to using humor is “breaking the barrier” between the learner and the trainer, especially if the instructor comes from a third-party firm, Dalto said. It’s especially good if trainers poke fun at themselves, which makes them look more human and more comfortable to be around.

But trainers must be careful in using humor, he said. Don’t overdo it or else it just distracts people from the content — trainers shouldn’t lose their focus on the learning objectives.

Moreover, putting jokes into every learning objective can just result in cognitive overload, lessening the chance that the learner will retain the required safety skill.


“Also, don’t make fun of the learners, because they could take offense and then not listen to the training,” Dalto said. “Above all, training has to feel like a safe environment in order for learners to best retain the skills.”

Dalto wrote another blog post using a zombie theme to entice safety professionals to buy Convergence’s training programs — “People DO enjoy Zombies and that’s always popular,” he said. Below are a few excerpts:

  • Bloodborne Pathogens: “Zombies tend to be biters. And we’re all familiar with the effects of a nasty zombie bite. So protect yourself from the Necro-Mortosis virus by avoiding those oozing contagions.”
  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: “Zombies are exceptionally messy. As their scattered entrails create serious slip, trip, and fall hazards, prepare yourself with this video that offers instruction on avoiding these dangers.”

Dalto’s Zombie post received a lot of comments from safety professionals:

“Too funny. Definitely an attention getter,” wrote one.

“Best post ever…” wrote another.

A third wrote: “May I remind everyone that zombies don’t eat brains, they eat flesh!! In any case, wearing hard hats to ward off falling zombie body parts from tall buildings would be a must!!” &

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.


Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.

R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.


We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?


Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.


Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.


More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]