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Traditional courses and textbooks in occupational safety emphasize rules, standards, and guidelines. This paper describes the early stage of a project to upgrade a traditional college course on fire protection by incorporating learning materials to develop the higher-level cognitive ability known as synthesis. Students will be challenged to synthesize textbook information into fault tree diagrams. The paper explains the place of synthesis in Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive abilities and the utility of fault trees diagrams as a tool for synthesis. The intended benefits for students are: improved abilities to synthesize, a deeper understanding of fire protection practices, ability to construct fault trees for a wide range of undesired occurrences, and perhaps recognition that heavy reliance on memorization is the hard way to learn occupational safety and health.


Originally presented in the Proceedings of the XX Annual International Occupational Ergonomics and Safety Conference Chicago, Illinois, USA 12-13 June 2008.