Tips for Selecting Online Safety Training: Finding the Best Fit for Your Company’s Needs

Selecting Online Safety Training Tips Image

In this article we’ll explain to you what online safety training is, taking a particular look at online safety training courses and LMSs; we’ll discuss some benefits of online safety training from the perspective of the organization and also the employees; we’ll look at OSHA safety training requirements and opinions on online safety training as well as ASSP standards for safety training; we’ll show you the benefits of blended learning for online safety training; and we’ll give you some key criteria for selecting online safety training courses, LMSs, and providers.

Hope you enjoy it and let us know if you’ve got some questions!

What Is Online Safety Training?

Before we begin sharing tips on how to get the right online safety training solutions for your workplace, it’s worth taking a moment to explain what online safety training is and some of the different elements it includes.

We’ll focus on online safety training courses and learning management systems, and we’ll wind up with a brief mention of some other technologies for safety training as well.

Online Safety Training Courses

Online safety training courses are one of the two big pieces of the online safety training puzzle.

The courses are the actual training content on safety training topics such as HazCom, Lockout-Tagout, Machine Guarding, and more.

There are a few ways you get these courses:

  • DVDs (although this is not an “online” option and DVDs are becoming less popular with time)
  • Streaming video direct from the Internet
  • eLearning courses delivered through a learning management system, or LMS (this option provides many additional benefits related to assignments, tracking, recordkeeping, and more)

You can learn more about eLearning courses for online safety training here.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Online Safety Training

A learning management system, or LMS, is an online software application. You can use an LMS to import eLearning courses on online safety training training topics or even to import your own safety training materials. You can then use the LMS to:

  • Assign the safety training to employees
  • Deliver the safety training online
  • Track employee completion of the safety training
  • Keep up with safety training deadlines and expirations
  • Run reports on the online safety training
  • Much more, including create online safety training activities and even manage “offline” safety training

To learn more about using an LMS for your safety training needs, check out our Learning Management Systems for Online Safety Training and Online Training Basics articles.

You don’t need to use an LMS for online safety training. For example, you can have employees stream online safety training courses from a website. But the LMS provides many additional helpful administrative features that you’ll definitely want to know about.

Other New Safety Training Technologies to Know About

In addition to the standard online safety training courses and LMSs at the heart of most online safety training solutions, there are new technologies that are becoming relevant to safety trainers. We won’t cover these technologies in detail in this article, but you should know about:

  • Mobile apps for online safety training and moment-in-need performance support
  • Augmented reality, or AR
  • Virtual reality, or VR
  • Chatbots

For more information on these new technologies, check out our article on Mobile Safety Training Apps, check out the Vector Solutions Augmented Reality app, check out the Vector Solutions OSHA Portable Ladder Safety Training VR app, and/or read our article on Disruptive Technologies in Training.


Benefits of Online Safety Training

If you’re reading an article on how to select online safety training for your organization, you’re probably already convinced of the benefits.

But we’ll quickly list out some benefits your organization and your employees will gain if you adopt online safety training at work.

Benefits for the Organization

By implementing online safety training at work, your organization stands to realize the following benefits:

  • Increasing the safety training topics your organization can address (by using courses created by third parties)
  • Improving the effectiveness of your safety training (by using safety training material designed and developed by people with expertise in instructional design, training, and learning and development
  • Creating a more scalable safety training solutions, allowing you to reach employees at different physical locations, on different shifts, etc.)
  • Delivering a more standard safety training message that’s the same for every employee
  • Saving more time for you to provide instructor-led safety training when that’s necessary for skill building or for safety purposes
  • Saving more time for you to perform other safety management tasks
  • Lowering costs associated with safety training, especially costs associated with travel, taking employees away from job tasks, providing overtime for safety training completion, creating safety training, and tracking safety training
  • Making it easier to get new and/or updated safety training materials to match changing needs, regulatory changes, etc.
  • Using safety training not only for training but also for online job performance support delivered at the moment of need (via mobile devices)
  • Cutting travel associated with safety training and thereby decreasing your organization’s carbon footprint
  • Creating a highly-effective blended learning solution for safety training (more on this below)

To learn more about the benefits of online safety training for your organization, and for tips for getting an OK from the boss to adopt online safety training, check our articles on 8 Reasons to Use Online Safety Training at Work and How to Pitch the Boss on Online Safety Training Solutions.

Benefits for the Employees

It’s not just the organization that benefits after the adoption of online safety training. Adding online safety at work can really help workers, too.

Here are just a few ways workers benefit when online safety training is added to the mix:

  • Allows workers to complete assigned safety training at time that’s most convenient for them
  • Appeals to different learning preferences (note we’re not talking about the debunked “learning styles” theory here)
  • Allows each worker to complete the same course at his/her own pace
  • Allows worker to learn basic information from online courses, thereby saving more time for the worker to get valuable one-on-one training with a real person for skill building and safety-critical tasks
  • Gives worker access not only to assigned training but also to additional training he/she can complete on an elective, optional basis

For some related thoughts, read up on 8 Ways Online Safety Training Improves Safety for Employees.


OSHA, ASSP & Online Safety Training

You may already be “sold” on online safety training, including its ease and benefits as listed above. But you may also be asking yourself “What does OSHA have to say about online safety training? And what about safety organizations such as the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP)?

Good questions, and we’ve got the answers for you below.

OSHA’s Take on Online Safety Training

Does OSHA allow organizations to use online safety training at work? The short answer is yes.

For example, this 1994 OSHA Letter of Interpretation says:

In OSHA’s view, self-paced, interactive computer-based training can serve as a valuable training tool in the context of an overall training program.

However, it’s not that simple. Life rarely is, right?

OSHA returned to the issue of online safety training in a July, 2019 letter of interpretation. Here’s what that LOI said (we’ve quoted this one at a little more length):

Online, self-paced computer-based training can be a valuable part of an effective safety and health training program. However, the use of online training by itself would not be sufficient to satisfy OSHA training requirements unless that training contains interactive and hands-on components. To be effective, training must result in mastery of the training material (such as, for example, safe work practices or the safe and appropriate use of tools and personal protective equipment). Online training without interactive and hands-on components would not meet this goal.

The opportunity for workers to be able to ask questions of, and receive responses from, a qualified trainer(s), in a timely manner, is critical to effective training. Online training that does not provide workers with this opportunity would not comply with OSHA’s worker training requirements. Training with no interaction, or delayed or limited interaction, between the trainer and trainee may halt or negatively affect a trainee’s ability to understand and/or retain the training material. OSHA notes that one way for the employer to give workers this opportunity in the context of a computer-based program is to provide a telephone hotline so that workers will have direct access to a qualified trainer during the conduct of the online training.

Equally important is the provision of sufficient hands-on training because it allows an employee to interact with equipment and tools in the presence of a qualified trainer(s), allows the employee to learn or refresh their skills through experience, and allows the trainer to assess whether the trainees have mastered the proper techniques. Online training that does not provide workers with hands-on training would not comply with OSHA’s worker training requirements. See letter of interpretation to Ms. Jackie Ward (Nov. 22, 1994) (copy enclosed).

So you CAN use online safety training at work. But you can’t use JUST online safety training at work. You’ve got to provide an opportunity for “interaction,” as OSHA says above. That seems to mean the ability for your employees to ask a qualified safety trainer questions. And you’ve got to provide an opportunity for hands-on practice in the presence of a skilled, qualified trainer.

In L&D language, this means you need to create a “blended learning solution” that includes online safety training but isn’t just online safety training. We’ll discuss blended learning more below, but for now feel free to click over and read our Blended Learning Best Practices article or download our free Beginner’s Guide to Blended Learning Guide.

For more on this, please read our article What Does OSHA Say about Online Safety and Health Training?

ASSP’s EHS Training Standards and Online Safety Training

Great, so we know what OSHA has to say about online safety training. But what about a professional safety organization such as the ASSP?

The answer for the ASSP is basically the same as the answer for OSHA. Yes, you can use online safety training. And yes, the ASSP suggests using a mix of instructor-led training, hands-on training, and online training.

How do we know this? For a few reasons.

First, because ASSP has two standards for EHS training:

If you read those two standards, you’ll see that ASSP encourages you to use online safety training but also to use it within a blended learning solution to get the most effective safety training possible. For example, here’s a relevant quote from Z490.1:

Multiple delivery methods may be used in a single training course or event. The training provider should consider a variety of methods, including but not limited to on-the-job training, lecture, computer-based training, discussion, classroom exercises, demonstrations, guided practice, activity-based interactive groups and virtual learning.

For more on the ASSP views regarding safety training, online safety training, and these two new standards, check out these two episodes of the ASSP Standards Podcast series in which Jeff Dalto of Convergence Training & Vector Solutions, the author of this article, was interviewed by the ASSP:


Blended Learning for Online Safety Training

We’ve already highlighted the importance of blended learning solutions for online safety training, so we won’t knock you over the head with tons of additional materials in this section.

However, we will share with you the research showing that blended learning solutions are more effective and give you some tips on how to use blended learning for safety training below.

Does Blended Learning Really Work Best for Training?

Yes, blended learning solutions really DO lead to more effective training.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. A lot of research, studies, and meta-studies have been conducted to prove it. Below are a few relevant quotes and sources to back up this claim:

US Department of Education: 

The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes—measured as the difference between treatment and control means, divided by the pooled standard deviation—was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face.

Source: US Department of Education, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies 

Dr. Ruth Colvin-Clark:

Evidence from hundreds of media comparison studies… suggest[s] that blended learning environments are more effective than pure classroom or pure digital learning…

Source: Dr. Ruth Colvin-Clark, Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals 

Dr. Will Thalheimer: 

Overall, these meta-analyses found that eLearning tends to outperform classroom instruction, and blended learning (using both online learning an classroom instruction) creates the largest benefits.

Source: Dr. Will Thalheimer, Does eLearning Work? What the Scientific Research Says! 

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Ruth Colvin-Clark and Dr. Will Thalheimer, they’re both very credible, very highly regarded learning research professionals. They’re not just sharing opinions, they’re pouring over data, research, studies, and meta-studies to find true evidence-based training practices and relay them to non-experts like us.

A Few Ideas for Creating A Blended Learning Solution for Safety Training

Now that we’ve seen evidence that blended learning solutions lead to more effective safety training interventions, here are a few different ways to create use blended learning for safety training at work. We’re going to cover this topic in more detail in an upcoming blog post, so for now we’ll just give you a quick introduction to this.

Online Safety Training Followed by Classroom Instruction

One way to approach this is to assign online safety training to your employees on a particular topic, such as Lockout-Tagout or Hazard Communication, and then follow that up with classroom or field-based instruction on the same safety training topic.

You can use the online safety training courses to relay important information to the employees, and you can use the face-to-face training session to focus on developing skills, answering questions, and judging how well employees have mastered the topic and skill.

This is sometimes known as the flipped model of instruction.

Using Online Safety Training During Classroom Instruction

You might also want to experiment with using instructor-led training AND online training during the same safety training activity.

Switching back-and-forth from instructor-led training to online safety training in the same training session provides a few benefits. First, employees will benefit from the diversity of training experiences as opposed to a single steady stream of instructor-led training. Plus, the online safety training course will probably provide the kind of visuals that aren’t easy to create in a classroom setting (see our article 10 Amazing Uses for Animation in Safety Training for more on this).

Using Online Safety Training After Classroom Instruction

You can also choose to use online safety training AFTER your classroom safety training session.

Doing this has a few benefits. Learning professionals know that humans experience something known as the forgetting curve–we tend to forget stuff pretty quickly after we first learn about it in a training session. That’s especially true if we don’t get a lot of chances to put the new knowledge/skills to work.

You can help your employees beat the forgetting curve, and more effectively apply what they learned during safety training while on the job, through something L&D professionals know as spaced practice or spaced learning (this is very similar to what you might think of as refresher training, although there IS a little more to it than that).

Online safety training delivered after your initial instructor-led safety training session can be a great way to incorporate spaced practice, beat the forgetting curve, and increase the odds that employees will transfer what they learned during safety training to their real jobs.

For more on this, please read our interview with learning researcher Dr. Will Thalheimer on Evidence-Based Training Practices: Using Spaced Learning to Combat Forgetting and Improve Transfer of Training to the Job.

Using Online Safety Training After Instruction as a Mean of Performance Support for Employees On the Job

In addition to safety training, you can use elearning courses on safety topics for performance support that workers can access within the work flow at their moment of need. This is also done by making the safety training available to workers via mobile devices such as phones or tablets equipped with mobile safety training apps.

Performance support (also sometimes called job aids) like this are very valuable to employees. They don’t need to remember everything from a safety training session that occurred seven months ago–instead, they can quickly call up the information they need when they need it.

For more on this topic, check out our article on job aids and checklists for performance support.


Selecting the Right Online Safety Training Solutions for Your Organization

OK, now we’re in the home stretch. We’re going to give you some pointers for selecting the right online safety training solutions for your organization and employees in this final section.

First, we’ll talk about some things you should do before you begin your actual search. Then we’ll give you some criteria for evaluating online safety training courses, LMSs for online safety training, and online safety training providers.

Creating Your Internal Online Safety Training Selection Team

Don’t try to find the right online safety training solution all by yourself or with input only from members of your safety/EHS management team. It’s too much work, you’re more likely to make a bad decision without input from others, and you’ll also get a lot more buy-in from others at work if you include them in the decision-making process (and that will dramatically increase the chances that you’ll implement your online safety training successfully).

To do this, you’re going to want to think of all the stakeholders around this issue at your organization and also all the people who have knowledge and skills that will help you make a good choice.

The first place to start is with your employees. They’re the ones who will be completing this online safety training. A lot of organizations exclude employees from the selection process, consulting only managers in the decision-making process, but this is a mistake. Be sure to include employees from the very beginning of your online safety training selection process.

Additionally, you’ll want to work with these people as well:

  • Upper management/C-suite
  • Operations
  • Quality
  • HR
  • Learning & Development
  • IT
  • Departmental supervisors, especially those with a role in training

Read more about building your organization’s online safety training selection team here.

What Do You Want Your Online Safety Training To Do?

Once you’ve assembled your team of stakeholders, it’s also important to step back and determine what you want your online safety training to do. Consider asking questions (and coming up with answers) to questions like these:

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about in this stage of the online safety training selection process. The list above is not comprehensive, it’s just for starters. So take time your while you’re thinking about this and come up with a good, solid list of use cases for your future online safety training solution.

To help you with that process, we plan on writing a blog post just on this in the future. Stay tuned for that.

Also, when you get around to thinking about this, we invite you to at least consider a slightly more expansive view of your role as a safety professional in the learning function at your organization. We believe that safety IS learning–check out our Safety and the Learning Organization article for more on this expanded view of safety and learning.


Selecting Online Safety Training Courses

Here is a list of criteria you should consider when selecting the online safety training courses–either streaming videos or elearning courses within an LMS–for your online safety training solution:

Learn more about criteria for selecting online safety training courses here.

Selecting an LMS for Online Safety Training

You’ll also want to take a close look at the LMS for your online safety training solution.

  • Will the LMS be network-installed or cloud-based?
  • Does the LMS have an easy user interface and is the user experience simple for both LMS admins and general employees? This is CRITICAL.
  • What are the LMS’ reporting capabilities?
  • Can the LMS be integrated with other workplace software applications?
  • What are the security roles?
  • Does the company offer training to help your organization begin to use the LMS?
  • Does the company provide resources such as integrated help and an online knowledge base you can use for self-guided learning about using their LMS?
  • What kind of customer support comes with the LMS?
  • Special safety consideration: Import your own training
  • Special safety consideration: Create your own activities, including SOPs/Procedures
  • Special safety consideration: Assignment engine/due date tracking/expiration tracking
  • Special safety consideration: Notifications
  • Special safety consideration: Integrated incident management system/similar tools

Learn more about finding the right LMS for your online safety training needs here.

Selecting an Online Safety Training Provider

Before you jump at any particular online safety training courses or any specific LMS, you’re also going to want to evaluate the online safety training provider. Will they be a good partner for your organization? You’ll find the online safety training journey will be much more effective and simple if your provider is helpful.

Here are some things to consider about your potential online safety training provider from the very first moment you begin communicating with them:

  • Are they friendly?
  • Are they responsive?
  • Are they helpful?
  • Are they knowledgeable?
  • Do they have a proven track record in the L&D/Safety/Safety Training industries?
  • Do they have a proven track record providing training to companies in your industry?
  • How much do their products cost and what are the purchase/pricing options?
  • How easy is it to get in touch with them?

For more on this, check this article on Selecting the Right Online Safety Training Provider.


Conclusion: Selecting Online Safety Training Solutions Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

We hope you found some value in this article on selecting online safety training and we invite you to touch base with us if you have any additional questions. Don’t forget to register for our Selecting Online Safety Training webinar on January 29, 2020, and keep your eyes out for a future lengthy article and a future webinar on Implementing Online Safety Training Solutions.

Finally, b e sure to download our free Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide Checklist below. 

Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide Checklist

Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide Checklist

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.

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Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide Checklist
Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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