Project: Using pictures in training

Peer reviewed and published

This project was submitted on 22/01/2014, published on 26/07/2011 by IOSH, and peer reviewed by IOSH

Strategies adopted in construction to communicate with non English-speaking migrant workers include the use of pictorial aids. However, there have been few construction-specific studies in this area and few validation techniques applied to them. The aim of this research was to establish whether delivering hazard information and instruction using pictorial aids can be linked with an improvement (ie better results than with text-only materials) in targeted competences and behaviours among second-language (migrant) workers.

Four targeted themes were identified for the purpose of the research:
A exclusion zones
B materials storage
C use of hand tools
D personal protective equipment (PPE).

Knowledge was measured via a 24-question multiple choice pictorial test with six questions per theme. Behaviour was measured via eight observational criteria, two per theme. The interventions consisted of pictorial toolbox talks on themes A and B, conducted on two sites (sites 1 and 3, collectively known as group 1). Conversely, themes C and D featured on sites 2 and 4 (group 2). Each group acted as the control for the other by using text-only versions of the corresponding toolbox talks. Sites 1 and 2 were revisited one month later to be tested again.

The main findings were:

• the mean knowledge test scores after using pictorial aids increased in all cases by more than those
with text-only versions
• the analysis of variance (ANOVA) of knowledge test scores found very significant interaction
effects over all the sites
• one month later, test scores remained high but there was a ceiling effect.

This shows that training with pictorial materials improves knowledge and understanding among second-language migrant workers better than text alone. In addition, the average pre- intervention knowledge test score was 10 per cent higher than previous research. This is probably because all the workers in the sample were European and had attained CSCS competence levels. The scores also agreed with previous findings showing that more experienced workers generally score higher.

The observation scores were not as conclusive. Prima facie, the results were similar as the plotted graphs showed that improvements in safe behaviours were generally greater on intervention sites; however, ANOVA returned no significant differences on virtually all individual measures. Combined scores for behaviour returned significant or very near significant results. This shows that measuring the impact of the images on behaviour is both challenging and unpredictable. Pictorial aids are merely a method of communication and do not ensure compliance. Where scores improved, they remained high one month later for themes A and B, whereas the scores dipped for themes C and D. In the case of A and B, site managers placed posters of the training images beside work areas. This ‘poster effect’ may have been the reason for the longer-term differences.

The benefits of pictorial aids to help improve health and safety knowledge should be disseminated to the construction industry and beyond. The format of ‘hazard–consequences–controls’ should continue to be used. Sketch drawings, pictograms and photos all have different strengths. However, further research is needed to establish how they can be used more efficiently. The use of pictorial toolbox talks in conjunction with a synchronised poster campaign or ‘Trojan horse’ approach may improve the overall impact of pictorial aids in communicating health and safety information. But their long term efficacy needs to be investigated further.

Leadership, Migrant workers, Occupational health & wellbeing, Training and education

Organisation: Glasgow Caledonian University

School of the Built and Natural Environment
Cowcaddens Road,
G4 0BA,
0141 331 3000

Principal Investigator: Prof Iain Cameron

Other Researchers: Dr Billy Hare, Dr Roy Duff and Fiona McNairney

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Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
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