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Intervention (Part 1)

February 27, 2008

The third of the trainer’s activities during OJT is to maintain work and safety standards. This can either be done as part of ‘educating the student’ and debriefed during the feed back phase or as an immediate interjection by the trainer. This immediate reaction is known as intervention.

By intervening, the trainer attempts (not all are successful) to influence the training environment onto, or away from a specific course or sequence of events. There are four main reasons why a trainer would want to do this:

  • Safety: to ensure that to safety standards are adhered to or to prevent a course of action that would result in a unsatisfactory decrease in safety to the student, trainer or co-workers.
  • Effective training: to ensure that the complexity or workload isn’t increased to the point that it is detrimental to the training (student is overwhelmed).
  • Team cohesion: to ensure workload balance is not disrupted to the point that it has a significant detriment to another team member’s performance or health (stress).
  • Operational viability: to ensure that there is no detriment to the overall operations that would result in significant organisational damage (eg loss of machinery, loss of product quality, poor customer service, insufficient production rate etc).

In practical terms this will usually present as the trainer fixing an error, offering adjusting feedback to avoid repeating an error or influencing the students decision making process when presented with a range of options or solutions (eg “whatever you do, don’t” … or “have you considered…”). Of course, interrupting the student to demonstrate or explaining something that is coming up can also be considered to be intervening but is better covered using BMD.


Whether we like or not, just our very presence in the training environment will affect the student’s actions and decisions. Typically they want to impress you (you give them a bad report otherwise) and may chose to do what they think ‘you’ would like them to do, not what they think is the best course of action. Additionally, you are a security blanket and some students will take greater risks or ‘have a go’ knowing that if they are unsuccessful, there is safety line within reach.

What this essentially means is that when we intervene, we don’t really intervene, we escalate the level of intervention. What we do have is an established baseline that will vary from trainer to trainer, student to student and scenario to scenario. In some circumstances the trainer may be several feet away, appearing not to even to paying attention. In others, the trainer will be in physical contact with the student directing what to say and how to act.

There are five basic levels of intervention escalation.

Presence: The trainer is nearby, but not close enough to physically interfere and acting purely as an observer.
Proximity: The trainer is now close enough to be within reach of the students personal space. This can be an act of scrutinising the student’s work or adjusting position in preparation for an upcoming event.
Prompting: The trainer directly addresses the student without actually instructing them how to act. This could be clearing of the throat (forgotten something?), pointing (towards a warning light etc) or actually speaking (eg “keep an eye on the …”).
Direction: The trainer is now telling the student what or what not to do. This can be a single instruction or it can be ‘pulling the strings’ and reducing the student to a mere puppet at their hands.
Appropriation: In the final stage of escalation, the trainer is wresting control from the student. Once again this could be a single act to assist the student or complete take over when the student is unable to complete the tasks in a timely manner.

Next Post: How to intervene effectively.

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