Online EHS training

October 1, 2004
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As technology changes, so does the environmental, health and safety training industry. In fact, EHS training has experienced more change during the past two years than in the previous two decades since the first training videos were produced.

Changes in the economy, the way companies do business, the manufacturing process and the government have created fluctuations in the EHS field. Safety professionals are taking on more tasks than before. The rising cost of health insurance and workers’ compensation has brought the issue of health and safety into cost-saving discussions in boardrooms, and more organizations, small to global sized, are implementing corporate-wide EHS programs.

At the backbone of the EHS industry is training. With so many format choices available today and so many ways to implement them, picking the best safety training for your organization that produces a sustainable ROI and gets the job done can be a daunting task.

Major formats

Let’s look at the major formats available from third-party training vendors and the future of each format.

Video — Video continues to be the most widely used training format. There are more vendors, distributors and production houses for safety training videos in the marketplace today than any other type of training media available. For many, video is the safest and most convenient form of training. Unlike computer-based training (CBT), videos are the cheapest media to purchase, do not involve other departments such as IT, and do not require major funding and approval from purchasing.

Digital technology will help video remain a viable training format for the next five to ten years. DVDs have already begun to replace the VHS media format, although most safety vendors offer their video training programs in both VHS and DVD.

CD-ROM — CD-ROM training is a convenient way to capture some of the benefits of online training in an easy-to-use format. CD-ROM programs are usually interactive and most come with a recordkeeping system and customization capabilities. CD-ROMs utilize certain technologies, including streaming video, graphics and animation, narration and a quiz to document training. However, for most companies making the jump from video to CBT, they go straight to online.

Online — As of yet, no media has completely replaced any other media. The radio did not replace newspapers. Television did not replace the radio. And the Internet has not replaced television, the radio or newspapers. However, younger generations are more in tune to the Web than any other media outlet, and as they begin to enter the workforce almost all business conducted will involve the Internet or Internet technologies, including EHS training.

Online training has grown exponentially. As safety training becomes a company-wide initiative, an online format is the best way to provide consistent and recordable training for all employees. It is also the most cost-effective way to provide training to a globally dispersed workforce.

The benefits of online training are numerous, including consistent, 24/7 delivery, customization, testing and recordkeeping capabilities, and interactivity, which leads to increased comprehension. Productivity is not compromised as employees are able to train individually and at their own pace. Online training is also being offered in more languages, including Spanish, which is especially important in today’s global workforce.

What’s next?

Where do we go after online? Eventually training might be deployed to workers through Dick Tracey style watches, but until then there are other advancements to look for in the online training world. Online OSHA 10 & 30 Hour General Industry and Construction courses are currently in development. Simulation technologies are growing rapidly, and hands-on training may eventually be completed with virtual machines. In fact, race car drivers are excellent at video games, creating the correlation between simulations and actually driving a car. This is becoming a way for drivers to keep their coordination primed off the track.

Online training will also be more accessible. Already, many vendors offer their online courses on a pay-per-course basis, which helps smaller organizations utilize the advantages of online training.

As Internet bandwidth — the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time — increases on a wide-scale basis, safety training materials, including videos and support materials, will be offered in a downloadable format from the Internet. Internet technology combined with digital technology will allow for instantaneous purchasing and usage. For example, a safety trainer will be able to log-on to a site, enter their credit card number, download today’s training program, and burn it to a CD-ROM for use in a classroom setting.

Bandwidth will also increase the capabilities of online training, making programs more robust with more thorough interactions and greater administrative capabilities. Eventually, simulation technologies and Internet technologies will combine to offer a life-like, complete training solution available online…but don’t hold your breath.

Blended solution

For now, many organizations choose a blended solution approach to their training. Some utilize a classroom portion with an interactive lesson using CBT courseware. For many OSHA regulations a hands-on portion of training is still necessary, including OSHA 10 & 30 hour training.

We are not yet to the point where everything is perfectly delivered using the latest technologies. For the safety pro, there will always be audits, inspections, walking the floor and the overall responsibility for their workers. However, making the training complete may eventually be as easy as a mouse click.

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