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Preventing Chemical Accidents:  Understanding MSDS’s & Assessing Chemical Hazards

The Small Group Activity Method

Basic Structure

The Small Group Activity Method* is based on a series of problem-solving activities. An activity can take from 45 minutes to an hour. Each activity has a common basic structure:

Small Group Tasks



1. Small Group Tasks: The training always begins with groups working together at their tables. Each activity has a task, or set of tasks, for the groups to work on. The task asks that the groups use their experience and the factsheets to solve problems and make judgements on key issues.

2. Report-Back: For each task, the group selects a scribe that takes notes on the small group discussion and reports back to the class as a whole. During the report-back, the scribe informs the entire class as to how his or her group solved the particular problem. The trainer records each scribe’s report-back on large pads of paper in front of the class so that everyone can refer to them.

3. Summary: Before the discussion drifts too far, the trainer needs to bring it all together during the summary. Here, the trainer highlights the key points of the activity and brings up any problems or points that may have been overlooked during the report-back.

*The Small Group Activity Method (SGAM) is based on a training procedure developed by England’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the 1970s. The Labor Institute and Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union (now part of the United Steelworkers) used a similar method around economic and health and safety issues for workers and further developed the procedure into SGAM. The New Jersey Work Environment Council has used SGAM since 1986.


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