College With The Most Top College Football Recruits This Year Game-Based Learning Applications For Safety and Health Training

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Game-Based Learning Applications For Safety and Health Training

I have been an environmental, health and safety professional for 19 years and have been training for almost as long. As any health and safety instructor will tell you, communicating information about state or federal regulatory standards isn’t particularly fun. The challenge for coaches in our business is to find ways to engage and retain the interest of our trainees. If the trainees are interested they participate and memorize the material. If the memory and experience are strong enough, behavioral changes occur. Ultimately we are workers who use our knowledge to engage their minds and bodies; Keeping yourself and others safe on the job.

Games have the power to engage learners in ways that produce results. It’s no secret that a properly designed and executed game can be an effective learning tool. The concept of game-based learning has been around for about 10 years and is gaining more and more attention. Many white papers describe increased retention rates with the use of thoughtful play. In fact, a recently formed organization called the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI) is a collaboration of collegiate institutions looking at how video games can be integrated into formal education for grade school children. G4LI work should yield research results that are also applicable to adults. After all, what are children but adults in large bodies? Video games aside – this has a wider impact on the effectiveness of games in general. For example, I still remember many questions that I lost in trivia pursuit games played some 25 years ago. This is the power of games—information sticks with you as a result of fun, and sometimes intense, activities.

Game construction

There are several key factors to consider when selecting, creating and using games for training purposes. They include:

o Using teams or individual participants:- Team participation provides an opportunity for collaboration of knowledge and “skill sets” to solve a problem. It promotes teamwork and does not single out someone for lack of knowledge. Teams limit one from “hiding in the back of the room” – they are accountable to their team. Be careful to divide the group into fairly well-matched teams – you don’t want one-sided victories. However, the advantage of one-on-one “game quiz” reviews—administered online using a classroom handheld “clicker” or learning management system (LMS)—is that they allow for individualized performance. Track and record.

o Are your questions easy, difficult or impossible:- Quality of material covered and level of difficulty should be chosen carefully. If the questions are too easy or too difficult, participants check-out. It’s good practice to make sure you know a little bit about the attendees of the training session and tailor the game accordingly. Are the people involved novices in their knowledge or veterans in their profession? A game that allows content to progress from easy to difficult usually works well and offers “something for everyone”.

o Customizing your content:– Game content should reflect and support learning objectives and training content. Having the flexibility to customize game content and other aspects of game-play is beneficial. Computer game programs offer this flexibility and add the actual “look and feel” of game-show style games (ie “Who’s a Millionaire”, “Wheel of Fortune” or “Jeopardy”).

o Game-play dynamics and you, the host:- The host is responsible for creating and managing game-play activities. This aspect is often overlooked and can make or break the game-play experience. A lack of energy and a host unwilling to increase participation will result in a less than entertaining time. The host is responsible for the pace of the game, being the “judge” in the event of a dispute and ensuring that learning principles are reinforced (ie extended discussion of topics and reflection upon completion of training).

o Game-Appeal:– Choose a game that meets the needs of (and appeals to) a variety of learning styles and requires the use of as many senses as possible. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is not a good idea. A game that demands physical activity (writing, raising arms, ringing a bell, etc.) is essential. Offer “great prizes” to winners (and losers). Rewards don’t have to be fancy—they can be vendor-supplied safety trinkets, candy bars labeled “Think Safe,” or something fun from the dollar store.

o Aim/Objective of Gaming:– Having a clear aim and objective of using the game. Using a game before a training session allows the trainer to gauge the knowledge base of his/her trainees. Using games in the middle of a multi-day event helps break boredom and encourages participation. Finally the use of games allows for evaluation—how well did the students grasp the material (and how effective was the instructor in communicating the information)? In many cases games are used to review or refresh material covered rather than to introduce a topic. Although, the sky is the limit, use your imagination!

Game applications for health and safety training

Whether you prefer the bells and whistles of a computer-assisted game or something low-tech, games should be tailored to your needs. Below are two examples of low-tech options used in the security industry for training purposes. A case study describes a high-tech alternative.


The need for information to communicate properly is critical to all aspects of field health and safety. This could include a spotter talking to the crane operator–describing where to raise and lower the 10-ton object–or a supervisor describing daily tasks and what safety precautions workers should take. The following exercise is a great low-tech option for two teams and focuses on interpersonal communication skills. Exercises require the use of Lego’s(TM).

With a common barrier between two participants, one describes the constructed “structure”, the other cannot see it. Objective – To create a mirror image identical in size, color and space. It is not an easy task unless one listens and communicates properly. Words and phrases—but not hand signals—can only be used.

Hazard Identification:

The ability to recognize a dangerous condition and take appropriate action to correct that condition is central to a sound safety mindset. This recognition is the result of knowing security standards and applying that knowledge to “train the eyes”.

A series of photos is created (real or doctored) in which multiple hazards exist. Objective – Identify all hazards. The photos are reviewed and participants write their answers on a piece of paper. Participants then exchange papers and grade each other’s work. A twist on this activity includes a team competition, a speed-offer extra points for those who are breaching regulatory standards.

Game-based learning-a health and safety training case study

One of the games’ more versatile features is that they can be used almost anywhere—from a formal classroom to a construction job-site trailer. Shell Oil is a large international company that explores and produces oil and gas in remote locations around the world. These activities are inherently dangerous with physical, mechanical and chemical hazards around every corner. The need to keep Shell’s employees safe and the contractors they employ is paramount to their success. Safety training is therefore central to many phases of their operations and is essential for new employee orientation, as a periodic refresher and as corporate policies and procedures change. In order to improve training effectiveness and achieve the desired safety outcomes, Shell decided to include gaming activities in their safety training curriculum.

“We were looking for a way to better engage everyone involved in our safety training sessions,” says Shelley Cook, safety specialist for operations at Shell Exploration and Production Company, Meeker, CO. “After some research we chose to use the HSLS computer gaming platform which allows us to blend OSHA regulatory content with our own policies and procedures”. A game’s ability to be customized to meet specific learning objectives is critical to achieving desired outcomes. For Shell that includes content development related to their change management strategy—transition control to ensure error-free (safe) continuity and consistency. “We wanted to blend the Management of Change, Shell’s site specific safety policies and chemical safety into a gaming activity…a very unique challenge” says Cook.

In many instances it is difficult to construct game-play activities, where information is reviewed for reinforcing, measurable safety outcomes (ie, fewer injuries). Safety performance is the product of all aspects of a corporate safety program – where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. However, properly designed and administered games lead to greater retention of content. The ability to review information in a fun way while incorporating team-building activities is always a crowd pleaser. “We got what we wanted, engagement from people who normally sit back and don’t participate in our training sessions,” Cook said. “With this success, we will continue to develop and refine our gaming activities to meet our training goals for our employees and contractors” added Cook.

The future of game-based learning

Moving into the future, I predict that game-based learning will grow even more and embrace different applications. For example, “serious games” are video-type gaming applications used for training purposes. These virtual world computer simulation games allow employees to interact with their work environment – preparing them for what they expect to encounter in the real world. Such tools are now used in retail and allow employees to experience and manage conflicting customers, shoplifters, emergencies and other critical managerial activities. There is much optimism regarding the use of video games for training. There is no doubt that these tools have a powerful physical effect on the body in terms of increased heart rate and breathing, sweating, etc. These kinds of experiences make lasting memories.


A well-organized and executed game provides an effective means of communicating information while having fun at the same time. Content-games are a great way to get your trainees up to speed with any type of content, no matter how complex. Finally, the more critical the information—and all security training is critical—the more important it is that trainees remember the material. Whether you’re just presenting materials to on-the-job rookies or veterans refreshing on regulatory information—games are a fun, effective, and memorable addition to your training. After nearly 20 years of training, I have found that game-based learning activities provide something to break up the monotony of classroom instruction and excite trainees.

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