Mandatory Safety Training and a Bit of Humor


Mandatory Training and Humor Image

In this article, we'll take a look at safety training and humor. And we'll do it by talking about flying to Hawaii. Not bad, huh?

In an earlier part of my life, I flew to Hawaii a lot.

I had a friend who was the Artistic Director for the Honolulu Theater for Youth in Honolulu, and because he had to travel to stage plays, I often was "saddled" with dog- and house-sitting responsibilities. Rough life, huh? Living in Hawaii was great, and I even got to surf the famous Pipeline surf break on the legendary North Shore. Never got to surf Waimea Bay on a big day, though.

On one flight from Oahu to San Francisco, several hours after the plane took off, the captain announced that there was a mechanical problem and we were returning to Honolulu. When I heard that, I was a little alarmed, and so I did four things:

  • First, I looked at the map to figure out how far from land we were. We were basically in the middle of the ocean.
  • Next, I grabbed the safety information card in my seat pocket and read it: where are the emergency exits, how do the doors open, and just exactly how does that seat cushion double as a flotation device?
  • Then, I tucked my little bag of peanuts into my shirt pocket. I figured if the plane crashed, I'd eat them on the way down before we went into the drink, giving me a little energy to use while I was wading thousands of miles from land.
  • And finally, I took a nap, on the assumption that if I was going to be paddling in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for hours, I might as well rest up first.

My point is that before I pulled the safety information card out, I didn’t know the critical safety information I would need if the plane went down. Why's that? Because I didn’t listen to the safety information talk or watch the safety video before the flight took off. I blew it off, maybe reading a book or staring vacantly out the window. Odds are you’ve done it too; we all have. Right?

Safety Training and Humor

Nowadays, I spend less time traveling to Hawaii, but I do travel a lot around the country visiting customers. I typically fly on Delta Airlines, and I've noticed they've done some smart things with their pre-flight safety video that have caused me to pay closer attention. The video has even engaged me in a way that made me actively learn a little more on my own. Plus, I've noticed that the other passengers on the plane were doing the same thing.

How did they do it? In a few ways, but I think the most important thing they’ve done is sprinkle some light-hearted humor throughout the video (the style reminds me a bit of the 1980 movie "Airplane."). Watch it for yourself if you haven’t seen it yet.

Did you watch the video? Let me point out an example of something that changed my behavior on the plane. At around the 2:10 mark, the video reminds you that the closest exit may be behind you, and then shows everyone in the plane turning around and looking back at a guy getting out of the bathroom. While I was watching the video on the plane, that was funny enough to catch my attention, and then I followed through, scanned the area, and found the closest emergency exit—something I almost never do on a plane. So mission accomplished, Delta! Your in-flight safety video:

  • Captured and held my attention
  • Raised my awareness of an important safety issue
  • Changed my in-flight safety behavior

Some other points about the humor in this video:

  • It’s presented in a way that gently reinforces the safety point without distracting from the message
  • All the jokes are easy to understand and accessible to a wide and diverse audience
  • The jokes aren't offensive and don’t work by making fun of anyone

If you have to create your own mandatory safety training materials, you could do worse than follow Delta's example.

Wrap-Up: Safety Training and Humor

So to summarize, don't be afraid to add some humor to safety training. It can help you grab and hold the attention of your audience. However, remember not to use humor so that it distracts from the important safety training information. In fact, try to use it so it emphasizes the important information, as the Delta video does. And finally, remember to steer clear of offensive, off-color humor, or humor that works by making fun of people.

To learn even more, check this article by Connie Malamed on Humor and eLearning.

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