Our powder coatings facility in Verbania, Italy, recently experienced a Safety Day like no other. Paolo Pallavera, the plant manager, who only assumed his role in 2022, has completely transformed the mandatory safety training for employees. Which sounds more appealing to you: completing a mission in virtual reality or attending an 8-hour lecture requiring extensive note-taking?
Paolo (left) and Fabio (right)
The Challenger of Verbania
Paolo became the plant manager and Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) powder coating manufacturing & process manager in 2022 at our new powder coatings facility in Verbania. This plant is unique within the EMEA region, producing specialized powder coatings with effects such as metalizing and nickelizing. Paolo is responsible for operating the plant, managing the supply chain, and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) activities.
He thrives on the variety of his roles and the daily diversity. Paolo believes the key to success is viewing each failure as a stepping stone to continuous improvement.
"Every day brings a new challenge, a new goal to aim for. I enjoy seeing our team grow, enhance their skills, and learn from each setback how we can improve."
Before his current role in Verbania, Paolo had been engaged in the powder coatings industry since 1996. After several years of working with wood coatings in the United Arab Emirates, Paolo joined PPG for the first time at our Cieszyn site in Poland, where he served as an EMEA process and manufacturing manager for powder coatings. He then returned to the familiar soil of the Verbania plant, which had by then become part of PPG, to become its manager - a position which he holds until today.
Outplaying the Safety
Despite still being new to Verbania, Paolo has already managed to completely overhaul the concept of Safety Day—a mandatory and important training event for employees in Italy. Traditional 8-hour lectures were unengaging and ineffective, so a change was crucial to ensure employees were attentive and understood the life-saving safety measures.
Paolo took a novel approach to the Safety Day training:
Traditional classroom training was obviously very boring for our people, so we collaborated with our training provider to come up with a more interactive approach—and it worked!
Instead of enduring 8 hours of lectures, Paolo encouraged teamwork and transformed the training into a competitive event, working closely with Fabio Graziani, EHS manager for the Verbania plant.
Fabio explains what technologies were involved during the training: "In virtual reality (VR), teams were tasked with identifying the mistake that led to an injury, without any real-world risks. The winning team received a prize."
Paolo reflects on how the gamified training awakened a spirited competitiveness among the adult trainees, as each team tried to outperform the others.
The real challenge for the organizers was to accommodate all the necessary technology and equipment within the limited space of Verbania's plant, requiring three full rooms. Yet, this didn't deter Paolo and Fabio from already planning for future Safety Day events.
Both are conscious that they must continually elevate the entertainment value and sustain the post-event enthusiasm among colleagues. This enthusiasm led attendees to claim they learned more about safety in one day than they had in the previous ten years.
Safety Day participants and winners
Technology for the Win
Both Paolo and Fabio emphasize the key role of integrating VR and technology in engaging employees during trainings.
"With VR glasses and a remote control equipped with a joystick, trainees could navigate the virtual environment. Meanwhile, the audience watched their progress on a large screen, providing real-time tips, such as examining a nearby fire extinguisher or guiding the trainee in the correct direction if they became disoriented."
The impact of these innovative training methods was immediate and self-evident, as Paolo confirms.
There was an instant shift towards more responsible behaviour among the employees. For instance, we no longer needed to remind anyone to wear their seatbelt.
The Valuable Transcendence
Keeping people engaged is crucial for efficiency across all activities. Paolo mentions the COLORFUL COMMUNITIES® program as an excellent example of when participants can directly feel the impact of their involvement and feel truly engaged.
Fabio adds that effective and engaging Safety Day trainings also have a positive effect on the sustainable aspects of the Verbania plant.
During these sessions, attendees learn numerous valuable details, such as distinguishing between various raw materials and correctly segregating plant waste, which reduces risks and pollution.