Monday, January 7, 2013

LEGOs and Training

So you ask, "What does Legos have to do with safety?"

I was having a discussion with a collegue from the Compliance and Safety Blog about a recent blog post titled "OSHA vs. Hollywood" (found here:).This is an interesting post.

I told him that I am familiar with being on production sets (this includes TV and live concerts) having done some work with the production industry (I hate to say television because we are in the era of the new media which can be radio, TV, satellite, Internet, direct to DVD, etc.).

This work was for friends as a favor, a friend I met from my time in college when I worked with a production company that catered mainly to the music industry. I was in charge of the road crew.

Note: Yes, I was a roadie. The term used by the production company was schwoog. They felt roadie had a certain connotation and the term schwoog was a more accurate description: "One who is charged with the moving, assemblance, disassemblance of the assets of, and in the service of another.

I referenced a blog post I made on a similar matter dealing with movie productions. I saw an article on this topic in a movie industry trade publication I got from my friend while consulting for him on a music video (for the web) that he was producing. The gist of the article was OSHA getting more into the movie production industry starting with the porn industry.

Take a look at my blog post:

CalOSH and porn? How could I resist to write a post about this. As you may have noticed, I take a lighter approach to safety, but my commitment to safety and the quality of training is of the highest standards. I have found over my many years 2 things:

First that most employees that we as safety professionals deal with are blue or gray collar. They are technicians, craftsmen, tradesmen, and artisans. They work with their hands and are skilled, take great pride in their craft, and work with their hands. Most safety professionals are like lawyers, theologians, and engineers, quoting standards, specs, numbers; the equivalent of reading the phone book. They are also very good and take pride in what they do.

The stumbling point comes when the safety professionals try to impart our knowledge to craftsman. We tend to speak different languages. I found that a lighthearted, humorous approach, with the majority being hands on, limited lecture, with 2 way communication is the most effective.

Note: This is a blog, so hands on is limited.

I wanted to make my point that my methods are supported by the metrics (results) that I track.


This is where Legos come in. Yes it is true that those little guys always their PPE, and follow OSHA and ANSI standards, that is not my focus on legos.

I was asked by by one of my Nuclear clients to do training that focused on following instructions. (Nuclear) Human Performance relies on the use of written procedures and has tools to help follow procedures without causing error.

Note: I will have to do a post on Human Performance.

Since I do hands on training, this exercise had to be hands on. (Nuclear) Human Performance procedures are written similar to military procedures, there is no room for interpretation and no room for error if followed. The people I was training had different jobs, so I had to have an exercise that everyone could do. I could not just have them use an existing procedure and rebuild a valve.

My criteria for the exercise was as follows:

  1. Conform to (general) Human Performance standards.
  2. Conform to the site's Human Performance standards.
  3. Conform to INPO, NRC, DOE,  and all other nuclear standards.
  4. Be hands on.
  5. Be generic in nature and not require any special skills (like rebuilding an engine). Not have any technical jargon.
  6. Allow them to work in teams.
  7. Allow the use of Human Performance tools that they have been trained to use.
  8. The procedures must be of the highest quality, meeting Human Performance standards or MilSpec standards. Written by engineers and allowing no room for interpretation, deviation, or error.
  9. Have a single outcome that I can inspect and grade.
  10. Meet the goals and objectives of training.
  11. Be fun and keep their attention.
I even had the Human Performance department approve my procedure (instructions) for the training exercise and  the procedures (instructions) used in the training exercise.
My first thoughts was to have them bake a cake or build a model. Then I remembered an article that I had read about Legos. Their instructions are produced by engineers and people with PhD's. They are the best instructions I have ever seen.

I also had to build every project prior to the exercise to ensure the correct number of pieces were there. Then I took every piece apart, counted them (to ensure the "number of parts" matched what was printed on the box), put them into zip lock bags so as not to lose any pieces, and reboxed them.

In one of the groups, I kept a piece out that you could still build the model without to see if they would "stop when unsure". I had the peice in my pocket, and they did stop and tell me a piece was missing. I pulled it out of my pocket, and they finished. A photographed the finished projects to grade, then we had a group discussion of the Human Performance tools that were used, how this training related to their jobs and the prevention of human error.

My methods seem a bit unorthodox at first, but the underlying principles are solid, with measurable results. I was complimented for the training I did both by management and the employees.

I enjoyed Legos growing up and they have grown in popularity with many adults. I have recently regained an interest in Legos. Lego introduced a line called Mindstorm (more on Mindstorm here). Mindstorm revolves on a PCL (Programmable Logic Controller) brick that was created by MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) media lab.

Along with hobbyists, teachers in high schools and colleges are using Mindstorm to teach robotics, students are using it for projects and competitions, inventors and engineers are using it to prototype, and there are many other uses.

Here is the link to the web page showing how to build "Plotter" pictured above, which is what reignited my interest in Legos:


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