A well-planned and managed health and safety training program is shown to have bottom line and organizational benefits.  Costs of doing business continue to increase and human resources are usually a large part of any business’ expense.   More than ever before, worker training has to “make sense” to the business and be delivered cost-effectively.

For these reasons, an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Manager has a to have a system that defines “organization-specific” training objectives and how training success will be measured. One big decision to make is choosing a “platform” for the training: classroom vs. online. How does an EHS Manager know which one is the best fit?

Certain occupations involve regulatory licensing that requires classroom training. For example, most states require lead poisoning prevention and asbestos management training be classroom-based.  These disciplines involve significant participation by students, group problem solving and class exercises. This type of learning is difficult – if not impossible – to replicate online. There is also a legal aspect to be considered with this type of training. Because the training is conducted for recognized licensure, a high level of integrity and security must exist (i.e. the person enrolled in the training is the person taking the training). Online options simply won’t suffice in this situation. It is also important to note that regulatory agencies conduct reviews and audits of training programs for quality assurance.

There is, however, training related to certain OSHA standards such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and lockout/tagout that can be achieved through a variety of online sources.  Quality, price, learning environment and applicability to the workplace are all variables an EHS Manager must consider when choosing an online training option. It is also important to ensure the training is applicable to the work the employee actually performs, and that the value of the online training can be measured.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Classroom and Online Training

While there seems to be growing pressure to choose more online learning, classroom health and safety training still holds numerous advantages, such as:

  • Face-to-face contact with an instructor and fellow students
  • The ability for the instructor to probe for student understanding, answer questions and address specific learning needs
  • The ability for the instructor to adjust a presentation to meet learning comprehension and relevance to an employer
  • Technology barriers – many students still seek a human component

With advantages come certain disadvantages relating to classroom health and safety training, including:

  • The need to travel
  • A higher cost
  • Time constriction (i.e. class begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m.)

The advantages to online health and safety training may seem obvious. Many online training options exist, such as customized applications, internal cloud/server systems, tailored solutions from training companies, and a la carte choices at the local and enterprise levels. Additional advantages of learning online can include:

  • A lower cost
  • Flexible time schedules
  • A large menu of topics
  • Highly consistent content (i.e. this may be ideal for sending 500 employees through an 8-hour class)

While the advantages of online health and safety training may be appealing to an EHS Manager and the employees taking the training, certain disadvantages come into play:

  • Employees must be comfortable in a computer learning environment and be able to manage their learning time
  • Relevance to a particular job assignment may not be clear
  • Employees must be able to demonstrate a learned skill, not just pass a test
  • Identity of an employee may be difficult to establish (i.e. who is actually clicking through the program and taking the test?)

Conclusion

Today’s EHS Manager has a wide range of choices when it comes to selecting a training program that is the best fit for their organization and employees. A lot of health and safety training can be accomplished via an online solution, but certain training still needs to be conducted in a classroom setting. Most importantly, the EHS Manager needs to determine the effectiveness of the chosen training and must ensure the employees use the training to stay safe on the job.

Simple, effective online training may be fine to establish topic awareness for 2,000 employees, but understanding how to use a potentially life-saving respirator is still best done in a classroom.

With all of the challenges and choices associated with health and safety training, an employer should first conduct a training needs analysis of their work environment to identify hazards and select the optimal training solutions to avoid injury, illness and regulatory liability.

Contact us today to inquire about a training needs analysis.