Drilling for Safety

Running drills serves as an important learning tool in many forums and should be considered to be included as part of your safety plan. I’m sure each of us has experienced a drill in one form or another, whether it be on a ball field or as part of a fire alarm drill at work or at school. The process of sounding an alarm and walking through the motions that must occur to demonstrate a preparedness should a real emergency occur is important. Both the act itself and the analysis after the event can serve to raise awareness of opportunities for improvement and recognition of successes. There is much that can be said about the phrase “practice makes perfect;” our challenge is to understand how we can leverage this more effectively with regard to safety.

Today, I would like to focus on electrical safety drills and spur the thought process on how the practice of going through the motions can help identify areas for improvement. Both NFPA 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” and OSHA’s 29 CFR Part 1910, “Occupational Safety and Health Standards,” recognize the importance of emergency response training. Section 110.2(C), “Emergency Response Training,” of NFPA 70E recognizes that employees may be exposed to shock hazards and must be equipped to properly address. This may be through awareness of the hazards of shock to the team or instruction on how to release victims who may be in contact with exposed energized electrical equipment. Emergency response teams must be aware of electrical hazards as some accident locations may present hazards of their own to any who enter.

Let’s explore more on this topic of safety drills keeping in mind that the more senses we include in the learning process, the more chances we will have of ensuring lifesaving activities occur during emergency situations.


Emergency events are filled with distractions that can act to dismantle all of our well-intended safety plans. Because of the chaotic nature of an emergency at a facility, it can be difficult for a team to perform at their peak unless their activities become somewhat of a habit, leaving room in the brain to address the not so normal issues that arise. One could argue that it is important for us to understand how we learn and retain information as well as how habits are formed to ensure our teams are performing at their peak during an emergency. If we can make some of what needs to occur during an emergency a part of our team’s instinctive reactions, we may just provide additional time needed to respond to the not so normal occurrences.

Various research projects have shown that including more of our senses during the learning experience helps ensure better retention rates. The student doing something, executing tasks or crunching the numbers so to speak, helps with retention and understanding of the materials being presented. The more we can combine various methods of teaching the better off we are. Combining classroom discussion, reading, and “doing” activities is a healthy mix that when wrapped with repetition results in long lasting instinctive abilities. We have to identify ways for our emergency response teams to see, experience, and discuss for peak performance.

Retention of learning may vary depending upon the engagement of the group and the mix of delivery methods for the materials. As human beings, we have less than a 20% retention rate when simply reading or listening to lectures. That assumes the audience is listening. We increase our retention rates when we include some level of participation by the target audience. If we can get team discussions spurred, debates on principles being presented, or work in demonstrations during classroom events, then we can increase retention from less than 20% to somewhere