Improve Retention in Cleanroom Operator Training

“Of the many potential sources of contamination in cleanrooms…, none is more persistent, pervasive, or pernicious than the human beings who occupy them” (Jan Eudy, “Clean Manufacturing Cleanrooms: Human Contamination.”)  

Cleanroom operators have a colossal responsibility. Contamination in a clean room can threaten the health of the public and destroy the reputation of a company. While equipment, surfaces, and structures produce harmful particles, humans are what most jeopardize cleanroom integrity. Eudy wrote in her article: “Just as humans are the greatest potential contamination risk, they are also the greatest resource for contamination control. A thorough, comprehensive training program detailing all aspects of cleanroom management will empower the cleanroom operators to control the degree of contamination during the production process.” 

Whether or not to train cleanroom operators is not the issue, however. Attending even the most thorough training does not guarantee that the operator will understand or retain all of the information. Elaine Kopis Sartain, of the STERIS corporation, wrote an article detailing her expert advice on cleanroom operator training: “Designing A Results-Oriented Training Program for Cleanroom Operators.” She says, “One of the challenges that trainers face is how to take information and convey it to people in a manner that permanently modifies their behavior.” 

Sartain outlines some simple and effective steps to train cleanroom operators in the most effective, behavior-modifying way:

  1. Clarify the message.  Training shouldn’t just include the “how” and “what,” but also the “why.” Information will stick when consequences are explained in plain language. Be very clear about what can happen in each step if protocol is not followed. When available, offer real-world examples. Don’t just list what is prohibited; state why. For example, one could explain as Eudy wrote, “Cosmetics are prohibited because in addition to their gross particle generation, cosmetics release iron, aluminum, silicone, carbon, titanium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and calcium.”
  2. Engage the trainee. As much as an employee may want to pay attention, his mind will wander if he is bored. Sartain suggests personalizing the message and presenting it in a captivating or entertaining format. Listing the “whys,” as stated above, can help personalize the message. Sartain also suggests having the trainees create their own training videos. This is a phenomenal idea, as not only do people learn by doing, they learn best by teaching others. Any opportunity to have attendees take and research information and present it to one another will help seal it into their memories. The more fun the activity, the more engaged the audience will be.
  3. Reinforce the behavior. Sartain states, “reinforcement can be accomplished through additional training, audits, and supervision, including performance reviews.”

Even the most responsible and reputable companies need to proactively ensure that cleanroom operators receive effective training. It is the most assured way to avoid devastating consequences.