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The SEIU Education and Support Fund (ESF), with funding from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has put together a training program to educate ourselves and learn how to prevent back injuries on the job.

You know best about the hazards of your job. You face these problems every day on the job. You have ideas about how to solve these problems. SEIU's experience is that workers learn best when they can share experiences and learn from each other. Worker participation is key to a good training program.

This workbook uses a method called the small-group activity method (SGAM). This method allows us to work in groups to solve real-life problems, building upon our skills and experiences. It allows us to learn by doing.

The method is based on activities. An activity can take from 30 minutes to an hour.  Each activity has a common basic structure: small group tasks, report-back and summary.

Small Group Task
The workshop always operates with people working in groups, preferably at round tables. Each activity has a task, or a set of tasks, for the group to work on. The idea is to work together using each other's experiences to tackle problems and make judgments on key issues. Part of the task involves looking at factsheets to develop and opinion on an issue.

The Report-Back
For each task, the group selects a reporter whose job is to take notes on the small group discussion and report back to the workshop as a whole. The trainer/facilitator records these reports on large pads of paper in front of the workshop so that all may refer to them. After the report-back, the workshop is thrown open for general discussion about the problem/issue at hand.

The Summary
Before the discussion drifts too far and wide, the trainer/facilitator highlights the key points (there are summaries at the end of each activity) and brings up problems and points that may have been overlooked in the report-back. Good summaries are short and to the point.