What are your thoughts about online safety training? Do you think you believe any online safety training myths?
If you’re like a lot of folks, you’ve got some specific ideas about online safety training. Some of those may be spot-on. But others may be a bit off-target. Maybe even myths.
We’re going to take a closer look at some myths about online safety training and do a little mythbustin’. Put on your PPE and follow along.
There are a lot of myths about online safety training floating around out there. We’re going to debunk them below.
What are your own thoughts about online safety training? What myths did we miss? What truths do you see? Please use the comments section below to fill us in with your own thoughts.
Some people believe that online safety training is just inherently ineffective. Or that it is automatically less effective than instructor-led training in a classroom or field-based training.
But that’s not true. In fact, research shows that online training can be just as effective as other forms of training. And in some cases, it may even be more effective, depending on the circumstances.
The classic book on this topic is Evidence-Based Training Methods by Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark. We recommend you check that book out, because it compiles data from many studies and presents a clear case.
Here’s how Clark puts it in another book (e-Learning and the Science of Instruction):
“With few exceptions, the hundreds of media comparison studies have shown no differences in learning…Since our first edition, there have been two new major reports synthesizing research on the effectiveness of online learning. A report by Bernard et al. (2004) integrating research studies that compared outcomes from electronic distance education to outcomes from traditional classroom instruction yielded the achievement effect sizes shown in Figure 1.7…As you can see, the majority of effect sizes are close to zero, indicating no practical differences in learning between face-to-face and electronic distance learning.”
Source: Clark, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, pp. 20-21
And more recently, a similar study from Dr. Will Thalheimer came to the same basic conclusion:
In the first section of the report, five meta-analyses were summarized, comparing elearning and learning technologies in general to traditional classroom practice. Overall, these meta-analyses found that elearning tends to outperform classroom instruction, and blended learning (using both online learning and classroom instruction) creates the largest benefits.
Looking more deeply at the results, there is clear evidence to suggest that it is not the elearning modality that improves the learning, but, instead, it is the learning methods typically used in elearning–and used more often than in classroom instruction–that creates elearning’s benefits…
Finally, the first section highlights that classroom instruction can also utilize these proven research-based learning methods to improve learning outcomes.
Source: Dr. Will Thalheimer, Will at Work blog, Does eLearning Work? What the Scientific Research Says!
Some may tell you that regulatory agencies such as OSHA and MSHA don’t allow online safety training.
But, that’s not true. Let’s get the words straight from the regulatory horses mouths, shall we?
Here’s what OSHA says:
Thus, OSHA believes that computer-based training programs can be used as part of an effective safety and health training program to satisfy OSHA training requirements, provided that the program is supplemented by the opportunity for trainees to ask questions of a qualified trainer, and provides trainees with sufficient hands-on experience.
Source: OSHA Letter of Interpretation
And here’s what MSHA says:
Training methods may consist of classroom instruction, instruction at the mine, interactive computer-based instruction or other innovative training methods, alternative training technologies, or any combination of training methods
Source: 30 CFR 46.4(d)
Some people believe that the purpose of online safety training is not to help employees learn, or to help employees work safely. Instead, they believe that online safety training is simply training delivered to fulfill minimum training compliance requirements in a cynical effort to “check and box” and be done with the obligation.
This myth is based in a different myth that we’ve already debunked: that online safety training isn’t effective. But we’ve already seen that’s not true. Online safety training can be just as effective as other forms of safety training. And in some cases, it can be more effective.
So online safety training can aid in training compliance, yes. But it can and also does help people learn and helps to create safer workers and safer workplaces.
Let’s take a step back on this one, shall we?
Training of any type can be boring if it’s poorly designed. Have you ever fallen asleep while reading a manual? Ever caught yourself gazing out the window at birds or clouds during an instructor-led training session in a classroom setting? Ever found yourself creating a shopping list or fantasizing about the weekend during field-based training?
If you answered yes to the questions above, you’ve been bored by written training materials, instructor-led training, and field-based OJT training. So sure, online safety training that’s poorly designed and delivered can be boring. But so can training in every form.
On the other hand, there are lots of ways that online safety training can be quite fun, engaging, and exciting. These include safety training that directly matches a training need that the worker recognizes, training that incorporates adult learning principles, training that is interactive and engaging, and training that makes use of effective visuals.
If a trainer isn’t there in the room as the employee completes training, there’s no way to tell if the employee understood the training. That’s what some worry about.
There’s an element of truth to this, of course. In some training, it’s important for a knowledgeable subject matter expert to be there. That person can demonstrate a skill or procedure, watch the employee perform the same skill, determine if the employee performed it correctly, and give appropriate feedback when necessary. There’s no doubt this is important in some safety training. (Although in some cases, you may find that scenario-based eLearning can do part or all of this.)
But not all safety training requires that kind of skill demonstration, observation, and evaluation. For example, some safety training is intended to create awareness or knowledge. That’s probably the case in a lot of the classroom-style safety training you conduct now. In those cases, online safety training can be just as effective or more effective than instructor-led training.
You may think “wait, but in instructor-led training I get to look into employees eyes, ask them questions, and answer their questions to figure out if they understand.” And again, that’s right, you can do that. And sometimes you do. And sometimes that’s valuable. But other times, your employees may simply zone out as you talk, ask no questions, and leave the training with as little knowledge as they had when they arrived.
Online safety training can help you with that problem because online safety training includes tests that employees have to answer correctly. Plus, online safety training systems allow you to run reports about those tests. These reports let you see things like:
Having information like this in a report that’s easy to generate can help you identify situations in which employees don’t have the knowledge they need but aren’t aware of it or aren’t raising that issue with you. You can then step in to help the employee learn what they need to know.
We’ve already addressed this one in part. But let’s review and add to our information.
As we’ve seen earlier, regulatory agencies like OSHA and MSHA both encourage the use of online safety training as part of a safety training program.
Not only that, ANSI Z490.1, the US National Standard of Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health, and Environmental Training, also supports the use of online training (which they sometimes refer to as “virtual learning”) as part of a blended learning safety training solution. Not only that, but representatives of Convergence Training are at this very moment working with other thought leaders in the safety training industry to create ANSI Z490.2, the upcoming US National Standard for “virtual” (or online) safety training.
And experts in the instructional design and learning & development fields have advocated for the including of online training as part of workforce training programs for a loooong time. Their recommendation is based in part on data like that the studies in Evidence-Based Training Methods by Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark that show online is just as effective as other types of training.
Hey, some of it probably is good. But all of it? Let’s think about that.
Do you have safety training on every topic you need to cover? Was your safety training developed by people with experience in instructional design? Do your employees ever get tired of seeing the same training materials over and over again? Would your employees appreciate and learn better from a little training diversity and a “jolt” of new materials? Are you spending too much time developing, delivering, or keeping records of safety training?
If you read those questions carefully, and give them some honest thought, you may see that you could benefit from some help with safety training.
A lot of folks choose not to partner with an online safety training provider because they don’t want to spend the money. And because they think they’re saving lots of money by making, delivering, and keeping records of the training on their own.
But shine a little light of scrutiny on that, and you may find that your safety training program is costing you more than you know. How much did you pay your own employees to develop it? How much does it cost to pay all your employees to attend your training sessions (including possibly overtime pay)? What about to create, store, and retrieve training records? To keep on top of training that expires and needs to be re-completed every year or so?
The chances are very good that you’re paying a LOT on your safety training program. Maybe even much more than you realize.
Online safety training can help you cut that cost drastically–while offering training that’s as good or even better.
If you talk to safety trainers and safety managers for a while, you may hear them talk about a concern for their job. Isn’t that the whole point of online safety training, after all–to put real humans who deliver training out of a job?
The concern is understandable. We all need our jobs and can understand concern about losing them. But let’s put this concern to rest right now.
Online safety training isn’t intended to put safety trainers out of business. In fact, that OSHA Letter of Interpretation that we quoted earlier DOES say online safety training can be used for safety training as part of a blended learning solution that involves other forms of training, but that it shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone, complete safety training solution.
What online safety training will do is help you use your time more wisely, productively, and efficiently. You can focus your instructor-led training time on topics that really benefit from that. You can reduce the amount of time spent doing clerical work and use that time for more instructor-led training time. You can take the money your online safety training saves you and take on more staff for instructor-led training.
You can even use all that money and time you’ll save and apply it to other aspects of your safety program, too. Because while safety training IS important, it’s only one part of the entire workplace safety solution.
This is related to the job-security myth we just mentioned above.
Some people fear that online safety training will eliminate instructor-led classroom safety training.
It won’t. What it will do is let safety trainers use the time they have available for instructor-led classroom training more wisely, and to take advantage of the special learning benefits that online safety training provides for particular safety training needs.
Let’s think of an example. Consider a small company that currently does all of their safety training with some form of face-to-face training, in some combination of instructor-led classroom training, safety meetings, and field-based OJT training. They’re probably stretching their resources pretty thin to do all of this with instructor-led. Maybe they’re missing training on some safety topics. Or maybe they don’t spend as much time as they could on some of the more difficult topics, or with employees who are struggling with a particular safety issue.
By adding an online safety training element, this company can handle the “basics” of safety with online safety training, and use their instructor-led training time where it gives the most value.
In short, elearning will make it easier for you to use blended learning solutions for safety training, to incorporate spaced practice for refresher training to combat the forgetting curve, to deliver safety training on mobile devices, and more.
Most people these days are very familiar with computers. They’re using them at home to write emails, check out Facebook, pay their bills, do their banking, and so on.
But, it IS true that some workers don’t have computer skills. We shouldn’t overlook that.
For those workers, it’s important to get an online safety training system that’s very easy to use. And it’s important to provide support to these workers so they can learn how to complete online training in a supportive environment.
It’s wise to be aware of this issue. But don’t take a molehill and turn it into a mountain. This is something people can learn easily and something you can help them learn with only a small amount of effort.
And remember, for workers who aren’t yet comfortable with computers and with being online, introducing online safety training to them in a safe, slow, supportive manner can be a great way to introduce them to a valuable life skill that’s becoming increasingly important in today’s world (and in the future). With online safety training, you can help some of those workers learn to deal with a lot of things that occur outside of work, too.
This is an extension of the point above. Sure, those employees who don’t know how to use computers COULD learn to use computers. But they won’t.
We get this point. For whatever reason, a worker may resist online training. Is it a fear of trying to learn something new, even if it’s quite simple? Or is it simply the force of habit?
But it’s not a lost cause. There are things you can do to get even the most resistant worker who might oppose online safety training to warm up to it.
Here are a few:
If a worker continues to resist, sit down and have a talk with him or her. Find out what’s at the root of the resistance. Odds are you can solve the problem if you work together on it.
You probably do. With even one computer, you can have a large number of employees complete the online portion of their assigned safety training program.
Of course, if you’ve got to buy another computer, or even a few, they’re not very expensive. The money you’ll save by not delivering so much instructor-led training will cover that investment very quickly. And those computers will come in handy in others ways too, no doubt.
And, how about that big elephant in the room? By which we mean mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Most of your employees probably have smart phones in their pockets that are more powerful than the average desktop computer of ten years ago. Your workers can use those mobile devices to view and complete safety training, too. Or your company can even buy some used, reconditioned ones for this purpose–they’re quite inexpensive.
Administering an online safety training system includes things like enrolling new employees, assigning training, creating records of completed training, and running reports.
It may seem daunting to learn to do this, or to do it on a routine basis. But it’s not.
Any online learning solution worth its salt will make most administrative chores pretty simple and easy to learn. They should each take only a few clicks.
What you’ll find is that online systems will dramatically reduce the time (and money) you spend performing these activities.
This may have been true at one time. Or partly true.
Because most safety training providers host online safety training systems on their own server or on the cloud these days. That takes all or nearly all of the IT headaches out of the equation.
If you’ve got computers, an Internet connection, and a web browser, you’re good to go.
The answer to this, in part, is the same as it is for safety training in any format. Some people update their training on a regular basis, others don’t.
Be sure to partner with a training provider that DOES update their training materials to match regulatory changes, to keep current with latest developments in effective learning, and even just to provide more diversity to the training your employees will be expected to complete.
Online training itself does have a bit of a built-in-advantage here. It’s quite easy to update an online course and distribute the updated version on the Internet, and online safety training systems have built-in features to notify people of updates, keep track of which employees have completed which versions of courses, etc.
In many cases, an off-the-shelf online safety training course will cover most of the important safety information your employees need to know. You can then supplement that with site-specific information using the blended learning safety training solution we’ve talked about earlier.
In other cases, you may want to use custom, site-specific safety training for your workplace. You can work with a safety training provider to get that made. Or you can even use some inexpensive tools to make your own (we show you how in this article and this webinar).
When people talk about online safety training, the focus is often on the courses that cover hazards like mobile equipment, safe work practices like lockout-tagout, and safety programs like hazard communication. And that makes sense, because ultimately that’s what safety training and safety are all about.
But that’s really only half the “online safety training” equation. The other half are the online systems you can use to administer that training. We’ll cover these in a little more detail below.
Depending on what online safety training options you choose, you may find online safety training includes two parts. We discuss them briefly below.
These are the actual courses that your employees complete. You can get them off-the-shelf or you can partner with a company and have them custom made for your company. You can even make them on your own.
Let us know if you’d like to see full-length previews of these courses.
In addition to the safety and health training courses, you can also get a web-based software application to help manage and administer all aspects of your safety training program.
The video below gives a brief overview of the Enterprise Learning Management System (LMS) by Convergence Training. You can use this for general health and safety training, get a version of it for mining safety training and MSHA compliance, or even get one for contractor orientations.
Let us know if you’d like to set up a demo to learn more about how it works and how it can help you at work.
Boom! Now that we’ve busted some myths about online safety training, what do you think? Leave your comments below.
In addition, check out any of the following related articles and resources:
And don’t remember that online safety training can be very effective, that it can reduce your training costs, and that it’s got a lot of other benefits as we’ve explained above. Contact us if you’d like more information or if you want to get started at your workplace.
Also, checkout the free Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide and Checklist below.
Learn how to evaluate different online safety training solutions to find one that best fits your company’s needs with our FREE informative guide and checklist.