Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Omelets in a bag as a lesson in training

A year or so ago, TV cooking star Rachael Ray had a guest who demonstrated a no-fuss way to make the perfect omelet, using a Ziploc™ bag and a pot of boiling water. Her under 15 minute omelet seemed like the perfect solution for time-pressed Americans who wanted a real breakfast without a lot of clean up.

Her training was flawless.

She described the technique, demonstrated the steps, conveyed the benefits and allowed participants (Rachael Ray and the audience) to experience the results. Websites were abuzz with this new and simple way to cook an omelet. People added variations..cheeses, meats, veggies. The training had taken hold.

There was only one problem. It was toxic.

According to scientists at the University of Illinois, boiling zippered plastic bags had the potential to release cancer-causing chemicals into the food, making this simple time-saving tip into a toxic cocktail. The Ziploc™ company confirmed that their products were not designed to be safely boiled, and that these omelets could be unhealthy.

And so the recipes and the recommendations went away.

Until yesterday. An article in the The State Journal-Register out of Springfield, Illnois (ironically, the state where the dangers were first mentioned) once again touted the simplicity of these foolproof omelets in a bag. And the frenzy started all over again. The story quickly rose in the Google Trends lists.

The training completed two years ago was still having an effect, even though it had been proven to be dangerous and incorrect!

So why am I mentioning it here?

As trainers and training designers, we have the potential to do great things for employees, which in turn can do great things for customers -- and ultimately, for the bottom line. But we also have the potential to do great harm. If we design, present or endorse incorrect or misleading training, we could be leading the participants straight into a toxic situation.

This is especially critical when we're dealing with safety training. Incorrect information about a chemical's risk or the way to operate one aspect of forklift safety could have tragic consequences. And yet when budgets are tight, we often see an "Any training is better than none" approach. Like the Rachael Ray guest, we could be leading people down a dangerous path simply because it's quick and easy.


Anonymous said...

Hey idiot - No evidence of toxicity from boilng bags has been found. Look it up ! (You might want to go to a real website like JAMA.). I did want to give you a suggestion. The orange genitals? Stop eating Cheetos when watching soaps on TV. You're welcome.

Training Time said...

Actually, researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Cincinnati found fairly strong evidence of toxicity in plastic bags and other consumer food storage containers heated to the boiling point. And the evidence was sufficient for the manufacturer of the bags to warn against their use in this way. But thank you for your thoughts.

Brought to you by