Magazine article HRMagazine

Putting Safety Training Online

Magazine article HRMagazine

Putting Safety Training Online

Article excerpt

Coursework should go beyond 'check the box.'

Erike Young faced a tall task when seeking to deliver mandated safety training to 50,000 employees on 10 different campuses across the University of California system. Young, the system's director of environment, health and safety, had a logistics challenge in ensuring that users could access a laboratory safety training course in a timely, cost-effective way. He had to satisfy a tough audience, too.

Some of the trainees would be professors with doctorates and Nobel Prizes-an audience that could likely teach the course itself and that had little time for training amid research and teaching demands. So when Young opted for a web-based training delivery format, he knew from interviewing a committee of administrative and academic leaders that the e-learning had to be instructionally sound, engaging and effective. After all, this was a culture that still championed instructor-led education as the preferred teaching method.

"The message from the committee was, 'Don't just tell us to take the training because it's required by regulation,' " says Young, who is based in Oakland. "If our employees had to take mandatory training, they really wanted them to learn something from it, not just have it be a 'check-the-box' exercise."

Working with vendor Vivid Learning Systems of Pasco, Wash., Young developed a custom two-hour online lab safety fundamentals course that addresses key regulations from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The course has interactive exercises and feedback elements to keep participants engaged and a pre-training assessment that lets employees test out of content they can show they've already mastered. To stress the importance of the training, a short video from university president Mark Yudof kicks offthe course.

The university invested about $100,000 in course development, but it expects to achieve delivery cost savings over time using online instead of instructor-led training methods.

"We didn't just want to deliver PowerPoint slides with voice-overs that satisfied certain regulations but made people tune out. It was essential that our employees' first experience with online safety training be positive," Young says.

More Flexibility

While trainers moved quickly in the past to migrate other training subjects to online delivery, safety training has been slower to join the e-learning party. That's due in part to OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other regulatory bodies for workplace hazard training, which require a "hands-on" learning component and ample opportunity for feedback during training.

Improvements in instructional design and growth of Internet bandwidth, however, have enabled developers to build more interactivity, gaming techniques and feedback mechanisms into online safety training, be it authored in-house or purchased offthe shelf from training vendors. Delivering safety training through e-learning appeals to HR and training leaders on a number of fronts:

* It ensures that all employees receive the same training in the same way.

* It can be accessed around the clock by employees working from remote locations.

* It provides more-efficient reporting upon completion of training classes than instructor-led options. Those records are essential to meet regulatory requirements. In other cases, proof of safety training completion is needed to grant workers access to certain areas of work environments.

"More companies are turning to blended, flexible or mobile versions of safety training," says Tess Taylor, PHR, who writes about workplace safety training issues for the blog HR Writer. "That's partly because more employees are working remotely or in flex arrangements, but also because it can be more cost-effective from a delivery standpoint to conduct training that way."

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