In this article, we're going to list a number of important features to consider while you're looking for a learning management system (LMS) to use for managing and administering online safety training at your workplace.
If you're not sure what an LMS is, it's an online software application you can use to assign, deliver, import, create, track, and report on online training, and even types of training that don't occur online such as field-based and instructor-led classroom training. To learn more about LMSs in general, check out our What Is an LMS? article.
Let's jump into this article now. If you want to learn even more after you've finished this article, we've included a lot of additional links for you at the bottom. You might also find a LOT of stuff interesting and helpful on your online safety training search in the guide below.
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A lot of the features you'll want to consider when looking into getting an LMS for online safety training will be the kinds of things you'd consider for any kinds of training. And a few will be specific to safety training, since you'll have some specific needs for safety training (not the least being compliance issues).
So with that thought in mind, let's get started with our list.
One of the most important things in any software system is usability--how easy is it to use. And that's definitely true with learning management systems, because they've got enough features in them to make things a little complicated unless some good user experience and software design professionals have put work in to make it intuitive and limit the amount of times you'll have to click things.
When considering user experience and usability, remember to think of it from two different perspectives:
User experience and usability is even more important if your workforce isn't computer savvy. Getting a system that's very easy to understand and use will greatly increase buy-in at a tech-phobic workplace.
One of the key reasons for getting an LMS in the first place is to be able to run reports and see who's done and not done with assigned training. Obviously, this is even more critical in compliance-based training, including training for occupational safety and health.
When investigating an LMS for your workplace, be sure to look at the reports and ask the following questions:
This may not originally strike you as an essential issue, but it's actually very important.
Look into whether the learning management system has a way to integrate with, and exchange data with, other software applications.
These other software applications you may want your LMS to integrate and communicate with, passing data back and forth, include your HRIS, your ERP, your CRM, your SharePoint, a workplace incident and injury tracking system, perhaps even another LMS, and other software applications.
Why would you want these systems to communicate? Here's a quick example. Say a new employee has been hired and the HR department has created a record for that new employee in your HRIS. Wouldn't it be nice if, when that record of the new employee was created in your company's HRIS software application, the HRIS would automatically communicate with the learning management system (LMS) you use for safety training, create a record for that new employee in the LMS, and even automatically assigned them safety training based on their job role?
In this same context, you'll also want to know if your LMS supports/can be integrated into the single sign-on system for your work network (so that once people sign onto the network at work, they don't also have to log into your LMS).
These software systems are integrated using something called an API. Find out how the APIs work for any LMS you're thinking of getting to help with your safety training program.
Check out the Convergence manufacturing LMS to see some examples of integrations.
You're thinking of getting a learning management system for your safety training program partly because you need help managing your safety training content. That means you'd like an LMS that can make it easy for you to:
To explain this, it's best to start with an analogy.
Back in the day, you could buy movies on two different types of tapes: Beta or VHS. Some machines could play Beta tapes, some could play VHS tapes, and eventually some machines came out that could play both types.
In the same way, eLearning courses come in different formats. These include:
And also in the same way, some learning management systems can play one, two, or all of these types of courses.
Your takeaway here is to make sure you get an LMS that's compatible with the type of eLearning courses you already have and plan on getting in the future.
For more information on this, check out our What Is SCORM? article.
When you think of an LMS, you might automatically think of a software tool design to help manage and administer the assignment of online safety training/eLearning courses. And that's definitely PART of what an LMS does.
But you don't want your health and safety training program to be 100% eLearning courses. Instead, you want to mix-and-match your training delivery methods, creating what's known as a blended learning solution. That way, you can use online learning, written training materials, instructor-led classroom training, field-based training, conferences, videos, and more to create a more complete and effective safety training program.
And so you want an LMS that can help you administer that training that occurs offline in addition to the training that occurs online. This includes:
If your safety training program should include more than online safety training (and yes, it should), then your LMS should manage more than online safety training. Right?
In safety training, keeping track of due dates is important. It's also important to keep track of training that employees complete once but then have to complete again later, when the training "expires:" an example of this is forklift training.
As a result, safety managers checking out LMSs need to pay particular attention how well the LMS keeps track of due dates, training completions, and training expirations, including:
You assign safety training because you want employees to complete it. And you are interested in a learning management system to help manage and administer that safety training partly because you want to give people credit for completing that training.
In some cases, granting credit for completed safety training is pretty straight-forward. If it's an eLearning course, that course typically includes a test or other form of assessment. If the employee passes the test/assessment, the eLearning course sends that information to the LMS, and the LMS creates and stores that completion record.
In other cases, it's not quite so automated. For example, someone will have to "tell" the LMS if employees have completed classroom training, field-based training, or have attended a conference. And so you'll want to see how easy it is to do that.
And because a lot of those things--such as classroom training and field-based training--occur in the field, you may also want to look into whether or not you can credit completed training in the classroom with a mobile device.
You may even want to see if that credit can be automatically granted if an employee swipes his/her employee ID card on the way out of the classroom.
Learn more about the use of mobile devices for crediting completed safety training here.
With some of the software applications you use at work, all employees have the same "powers" and "access." For example, when you get a corporate license for Microsoft Word and Excel, everyone can use those software applications in the exact same way.
With other software applications, however, different employees may have different security roles that give them different powers. And that's what you want with a learning management system--security roles that grant/deny specific abilities to different employees, and that even govern the part of the organization over which an employee can exercise those powers.
For example, security roles might include these features:
Likewise, an employee at your company may have powers that he/she can exercise:
Find out how the security roles in the LMS you're checking out work, what powers they grant, if they grant those powers over specific parts of your organization, and how easy/difficult they are to assign and later retract.
That LMS may have the features you want today, but what about the future?
Will it get new features? How often? How do those new features get installed? How are you alerted? What triggers the creation of new features? Do you have to pay for them, or will they be free?
And what about custom features? Can you request new features? If you do request new features, what are the chances they'll be created? Again, how much will all this cost?
You'll probably want an LMS that grows with you over time, so these issues are pretty important.
An LMS on your desktop is nice, but it's also limiting.
Wouldn't you like to be performing some of these features on a mobile device, such as a tablet or smart phone:
See if the LMS provider has created compatible mobile apps to help with this.
Safety training is nice. Actually, it's necessary, and not only for compliance reasons.
But safety training is only one part of the "safety learning" process. In addition to training, you want to be able to put safety and other information at your workers' fingertips when and where they need it--in the field, when they're performing job tasks.
An LMS with mobile integration and mobile apps created specifically for delivering field-based performance support will help make that a reality, and will help improve safety at your workplace.
Read more about this in our article on job aids.
Many learning management systems are designed without the special needs of safety training in mind. And in many cases, that's just fine. If you're delivering job training to software engineers or sales people, there's not a lot of need for some of the special features a safety manager would care about.
But if you're going to to use the LMS to deliver safety training to your workforce, there are some things that can be really helpful. These include:
Remember that an LMS created for just any organization or just any organizational training need may not work as well for safety training as one that was designed with safety training in mind.
One nice feature to look for in an LMS you'll use for safety training is an integrated online workplace incident and injury tracking system. There are several benefits of having these two safety-related software applications integrated, including:
Why not super-charge your safety training?
We hope you found these tips helpful in your search for a learning management system for your safety training program.
Although this article includes a number of good features to look for, we do have some additional resources that take even deeper dives into this issue. So don't forget to check out our Using an LMS for Online Safety Training article and remember to download our free Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide Checklist.
And, of course, if you're looking into an LMS for online safety training, you may also be interested to learn more about eLearning courses for online safety training as well. If so, here's a similar article that lists some features to look for in online safety training elearning courses and here's a deeper dive into elearning courses for online safety training.
And before you go, feel free to download our guide to effective EHS/safety training.