PHONE: +1 936.588.1130


Your comprehensive source of information using behavioral technology to improve safety and performance. Sign up to have new articles delivered straight to your inbox!


Building Independence Using A Train-The-Trainer Implementation

Jack Butler, Human Resources Director:

Quebecor World is the largest commercial print media company in the world with 43 thousand employees in 160 plants in 16 countries. At the Hazleton, Pennsylvania plant, built in 1987, approximately 300 employees work in a continuous operation to print and bind telephone directories. In a normal year, they produce over 300 different titles, which is almost 40 million individual books and 128 million pounds of paper.

When the plant first opened, we had little in the way of formal safety programming, for example, no published safety guidelines and no case management for injured associates. Being a craft that is centuries old, sometimes it seems that safety attitudes are equally old. “Printing is a dangerous business.” “There's nothing you can do – accidents will happen.” “After all, they are accidents – people aren't trying to get hurt.” However, in the early 1900's, we did implement safety policies and procedures, began case management, and instituted alternate-duty work for those with physical restrictions. We tried to raise awareness with safety posters, safety videos, monthly safety meetings, safety games, and Safety Week festivities. We formed a Safety Committee of managers, supervisors, and associates. Division Human Resources Director, Jay Phillips, trained managers, supervisors, and Safety Committee members to investigate incidents and to do monthly inspections of the plant physical conditions.


As a result, OSHA recordable incident rate decreased from 27.0 in 1991 to 6.1 in 2000, which is lower than the Commercial Printing industry average of 6.6. Worker's compensation costs also went down. However, improvements appeared to stop around 1998. We could not reduce incidents below a certain plateau. In the mid-2000, we heard about Behavioral Safety, a different approach that seemed to promise dramatically better results in achieving safe working practices. Behavioral Safety also aligned with a recent corporate requirement that each plant include observations in their safety program. Jack and Jay attended the Behavioral Safety Now conference in Reno, Nevada in October 2000 to learn more about this approach and chose a consultant.

At the Reno conference we attended all general sessions and as many concurrent sessions as we could, spoke to several companies that had already implemented a Behavioral Safety process, and interviewed every consulting group represented. We were interested in a process that would empower associates, fit in with the small-team environment of the plant, and be positive in approach. Most of all, we wanted to develop internal expertise in the underlying technology so that we could continuously improve the process after the consultants left. In the final analysis, Quality Safety Edge seemed to best fit our needs.

In November 2000, Terry McSween, President of Quality Safety Edge, met with all of our managers, supervisors and Safety Committee members to describe the history and science of behavioral safety, outline how a process could be designed and implemented, and give examples of its effectiveness. Associate members of the Safety Committee had concerns about the willingness of their fellow associates to conduct observations and feedback but became convinced that Behavioral Safety was probably the most effective method to reduce injuries.

In December 2000, Grainne Matthews, Quality Safety Edge Project Manager, came to Hazleton to evaluate our safety objectives and plant culture. During the manager and supervisor interviews and the associate focus groups, we also learned more about Behavioral Safety and nominated our colleagues for the Design Team. The final Design Team represented every area of the plant and every job classification from a part-time temporary associate to the Vice President / General Manager. Both the Division and plant Human Resource directors were members of the Design Team.

Amy Kleinhelter, Customer Service:

In January 2001, our Design Team began to learn about, and then customize, the Values Based Safety Process for our unique plant culture. For example, we created unique Observation Checklists by analyzing all 273 injuries from the last five years to identify those practices that would have prevented or lessened the injury. We found that 80% of injuries could have been prevented by the behavior of a person involved in the incident and 15% involved a combination of behavior and conditions. In other words, 95% of the injuries could have been avoided or lessened in severity if someone had done something different. We found that some preventative practices, such as manual lifting, were important across all work groups but that there were also specific practices important in each of the six work groups, for example, handling plates in the Press Room. Therefore, we developed six different checklists with the most important safety practices. Each checklist contains six plant-wide practices and approximately five group-specific practices.

We then presented the finished process design to the entire management team for their feedback and approval. We asked them to sign a Management Commitment statement agreeing to the key features of the process and their roles as managers. We presented this to each associate during Coaching Workshops to illustrate management's commitment to abide by our design. The key features of our process are:

  • It is associate-owned. We designed it, implemented it, and now we manage it. We analyze the observation data, recommend interventions, and plan recognition and celebrations.
  • Observers provide positive, immediate, individual feedback to the person observed. Unlike some of our previous programs, people know immediately if what they are doing is safe or of concern to the observer and they have a chance to discuss the situation with the observer. In the past, we only received vague, judgmental, and embarrassingly public feedback in the monthly department safety meeting.
  • It is voluntary both for observers and people being observed. Observers ask permission from the person they wish to observe. There are no negative repercussions for refusing permission – but we never give up on anyone!
  • Observations are brief. We watch someone work for about 3-5 minutes using the checklist to identify safe behaviors. After observing them doing the task we provide feedback. The completed checklist is then put in a box for collection. It takes about 20 minutes from the time an observer leaves their work area until they are back on their regular job.
  • It involves everyone. We chose to train all associates, supervisors, and managers as coaches because we want everyone to benefit from being an observer. Research shows that observers improve their safety practices as much or more than observees (Alvero & Austin, 1999; Austin 2001). We also want to maximize the number of observations because the more often feedback is received, the quicker performance improves.

In February, six of our Design Team members volunteered to become Observer trainers. We first observed Grainne conduct an Observer workshop while completing various exercises, then we analyzed all the materials and exercises, next we prepared our own version of each module, and finally, we co-facilitated a workshop with Grainne. Our Observer workshop provides every employee of the plant with an understanding of what Behavioral Safety is and why we need it. It teaches participants to observe accurately and provide helpful feedback. We end every class with a request for a commitment from each person to give the process a try by doing an observation within the week. About 60% of participants made that commitment.

Our goal was to train all employees in six weeks. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to get everyone on every shift in every department to a workshop. But, with the help of all the managers, supervisors, trainers, and associates, we succeeded in training 99% of associates in about 10 weeks.

We chose to use this Train-the-Trainer model rather than have Quality Safety Edge train all of our Observers because:

  • We wanted to develop greater ownership for our Values Based Safety Process. We understand our Values Based Safety® Process even more than we did as Design Team members. So we can manage it better as Steering Committee members. We are more committed to the success of the process because we invested so much. We own this process, not only did we design it, but we implemented it too. This is not management's process, or a consultant's process – this is our process.
  • We wanted to develop internal expertise. We now have the ability to train new staff as Observers without having to call in a consultant. We can also serve as resources for the rest of Quebecor World by sharing our understanding and experience with other plants interested in Behavioral Safety.

Jeffrey Russ, Press Room supervisor:

In the first year of our Values Based Safety® Process, our Steering Committee focused on giving our process a strong foundation by measuring, providing feedback on, and recognizing and celebrating:

  • Participation: Percentage of employees doing at least one observation a month.
  • Observations: Number of observations occurring each month.

Total Plant: Figure 1 shows participation and observations for the entire plant each month since Observer Training began in February 2001. Participation averaged 23% (range 14% to 38%) in the year since full implementation. Observations averaged 225 (range 88 to 394) and increased an average of 10% each month. Each participating person averaged three observations per month. Efforts made to promote participation include:

  • Individual recognition for participants - personal thanks from their Steering Committee representative, posting of their name and number of observations in their department and in the plant cafeteria, and displaying examples of high quality observations.
  • Weekly feedback to department managers on their department participation so that they can thank associates for conducting observations.
  • Group celebrations for departments - we had pizza for everyone when any department improves participation by 10% and for the department with the most observations.
  • Department-specific graphs are posted in each department and plant-wide data are posted in the cafeteria on:
  • Monthly participation, observations, and injuries including goals
  • Year-to-date percent safe and percent concern for each checklist item
  • Ensuring active representation of each department on the Steering Committee through elections, replacements, and rotating roles.
  • Maintaining awareness of the process through monthly reports from the Steering Committee in the plant newsletter and presentations at quarterly plant meetings by attendees at the Behavioral Safety Now Conference 2001.
  • Training all newly hired employees to participate as observers.
  • Constantly improving the process to facilitate and reinforce participation, for example:
  • Updating the checklists based on participant feedback
  • Making data available to everyone on the plant's computer network
  • Increasing the frequency of Steering Committee meetings
  • Translating the checklists into Spanish
  • Encouraging people to do observations together to overcome apprehension

Total injuries (first aid, medical attention, and lost workday cases) decreased from 58 in the year prior to implementation to 42 in the year following. Figure 2 shows that, as the number of observations increases, the number of injuries decreases.

Prepress: Production begins in our prepress department where we process all incoming digital copy and produce large aluminum plates for use on the printing presses. The 30 associates in this department spend most of their time at computer workstations but they also handle sharp plates. Cutting and ergonomic issues caused the majority of injuries in our analysis of the injuries from 1995 to 2000. Therefore the group-specific practices on their Observation Checklist are body position at computer, designated tool for task, plate handling, stretch breaks, and personal protective equipment (each of these practices is further defined on the checklist). Monthly participation averaged 14% (range 3% to 30%). Observations averaged five (range 1 to 10). Each participating associate averaged one observation per month. Both participation and observations are gradually increasing. Injuries decreased from four to one in the year following implementation.

Press Room: Our 93 press room associates work in an area with rapidly moving, loud, and heavy presses printing signatures from the plates. They also handle sharp plates and have to climb up the three story machines. The pace of work is extremely fast and there is just enough staff to run the press on each team. Sharp objects and ergonomic issues also caused the majority of injuries in the press room in 1995-2000. Therefore the group-specific practices on their Observation Checklist are body position, handling plates, communicating intentions, three points of contact, and inspecting bundle boards. Participation averaged 15% (range 3% to 28%). Observations averaged 54 each month (range 8 to 155). Each participating associate averaged four observations. Efforts made to facilitate participation include scheduling a relief associate to replace someone at a press to allow that person to conduct observations. As a result, both participation and observations are steadily increasing. Injuries have unfortunately increased from 25 to 28.

Bindery: Our 83 bindery associates assemble the printed signatures into telephone directories on two rapidly moving, loud binding lines. They also work with two guillotine-like trimmers to cut the books to finished size and with a palletizer to stack them for shipping. The pace of work in the bindery is dictated by the speed of the line and some positions work rapidly and continuously. Sharp objects and moving equipment caused the majority of injuries in 1995-2000. Therefore the group-specific practices on their Observation Checklist are safe cutting, designated tool, guards in place, eye protection, and inspecting pallets in palletizer. Participation averaged 22% (range 8% to 42%). Observations averaged 79 (range 19 to 148). Each participating associate averaged four observations. Efforts made to support participation include the Steering Committee representative presenting participation and observation data in department safety meetings and making blank checklists and observation drop off boxes more accessible. Both participation and observations are increasing. Injuries have decreased from 20 to 12 in the year since implementation.

Material Handling: The 23 material handling associates operate eight forklifts to deliver rolls of paper to the press room and palletized telephone directories from the bindery as well as a myriad of other material handling tasks. Strains related to body position caused the majority of injuries in 1995-2000. Therefore the group-specific practices on their Observation Checklist are body position when lifting, pulling and pushing, check condition of garage doors & waste bins, blow horn when approaching intersections, clear line of vision, and stack pallets no more than three tiers high. Participation averaged 11% (range 0% to 35%). Observations averaged six (range 0 to 16). Each participating associate averaged two observations. Efforts made to increase participation include improving the accessibility of blank checklists. Both participation and observations are on an upward trend. Injuries decreased from five to two.

Maintenance: Our 14 maintenance people repair electrical, electronic, and mechanical equipment all over the plant. The group-specific practices on their Observation Checklist are lock and tag out; wear personal protective equipment when welding, grinding, or cutting; designated tool; walk in walkways, check for forklifts; and three points of contact. Participation averaged 11% (range 0% to 36%). Observations averaged two (range 0 to 5). Each participating associate averaged one observation. There is an increasing trend in the participation rate. Injuries have decreased from three to zero.

Office and Quality: The 36 associates in the Quality department and other support positions in the office generally work in a relatively safe environment so they only have three specific practices on their Observation Checklist: body position at the computer and walk in walkways, check for forklifts, and wear earplugs and steel toe shoes when in production areas. Participation averaged 24% (range 8% to 47%). Observations averaged 16 (range 3 to 32). Each participating associate averaged two observations. Efforts made to continue participation include the Steering Committee representatives discussing the data with the staff at the monthly department safety meetings. Both participation and observations are rapidly increasing. Injuries remain at zero.

Managers/Supervisors: Our 24 managers and supervisors provide strong support for the Values Based Safety® Process. Over 50% did at least one observation immediately following training. Participation averaged 76% (range 50% to 100%). Observations averaged 53 (range 25 to 76). Each participating manager or supervisor averaged three observations. To reinforce and prompt participation, those who complete an observation raise their hands and are applauded at the daily production meeting. Participation rapidly increased until 100% of managers and supervisors conducted an observation for three consecutive months. The injury rate among managers and supervisors unfortunately increased from zero to three although their observations are primarily of associates rather than other managers or supervisors.

Manager and supervisor involvement is important for employee participation. McSween and Cook (2000) demonstrated that employee participation is closely correlated with supervisor and manager involvement. The more supervisors and managers conduct observations, the more likely their employees are to do the same.


Quebecor World Hazleton embraced Behavioral Safety as a positive, employee driven process proven through research and experience to reduce injuries. We designed our implementation to maximize employee ownership and in-house expertise. The most important tool to accomplish this was training six employee Design Team members to teach other employees about the process and how to participate. Evidence that our efforts were successful include a decision by the Division Senior Management Team to implement the Values Based Safety® Process at our sister plants after hearing a presentation from three of our Steering Committee members who were also observer Trainers.


  • Alvero, A. and Austin, J. The effects of conducting observations: Do safety observers perform more safely as a result of conducting observations? Behavioral Safety Now Conference, 1999, Las Vegas, NV.
  • Austin, J. What do we really know about BBS? Behavioral Safety Now Conference, 2001, Houston, TX.
  • McSween, T. and Cook, S. The role of supervisors in behavioral safety observations. Professional Safety, October 2000.