TNO: Digital learning boosts safe working in the port

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The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands aspires to be the safest and most sustainable mainport by 2020. That imposes great demands on the companies operating in the port, and on the professional skills of their employees. They are being assisted in this by Sam (Safety At MainPort), a new digital learning platform.
When TNO researchers interviewed maintenance managers and employees in the Port of Rotterdam, it became clear that, by itself, acquiring technical skills and a basic knowledge of safety just won’t cut it. In response to this need, the Malmberg publishing company – together with iTanks and TNO – developed the Sam digital learning platform, to encourage people to engage in continuous learning about safety.
“Drawing on TNO’s knowledge of safety and health at work, we got to work to build a digital platform,” says Geeske Steeneken, Malmberg’s Sam Business Unit Manager. “We were astonished that something like this was not already available. All of the existing safety-related material was based on a very traditional design. Going digital gives you many more options. For instance, it enables you to practice visually realistic situations. You can even re-enact unsafe situations, something that is totally impossible in real life, of course. All of these aspects add value.”
“Here in the port, all safety-related matters are incredibly well organized,” says Geeske. “Yet everything you are taught about processes and procedures is quite general in scope. Individual employees do not get the feeling that any of this relates directly to them. The course materials that we have developed for Sam have all been designed from the viewpoint of the individual employee, carrying out specific activities in a specific place. In other words, they perform exercises that are based on familiar situations in the workplace. The aim is to activate their knowledge, and to challenge them to weigh up various courses of action in specific situations. You can teach them all the theory you like, but what really matters is using that knowledge effectively in your own situation in the workplace.”
The employees of ten different companies have already started working with Sam. They practice in the workplace for ten minutes each week (usually in groups of five to ten) using a module that is relevant to what is happening there and then. are often large petrochemical companies, how serious they are about safety. That creates trust.”
John Nouwens, Business Unit Manager for senior secondary vocational education and training at Malmberg, points out that “The contractors’ response is the same one that we had at the start, why didn’t we already have something like this? They now consider it vital for their employees to work on their skills, week in, week out. That would have been impossible without a digital learning environment. And the employees themselves take great pride in showing that they have completed the modules successfully. Sam is intended to change people’s behaviour, making them more aware of safety issues.”

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