Online versus In-Person Workplace Safety Training
In a post-pandemic world, with many organizations adopting fully remote or hybrid work structures for employees, it’s no surprise that workplace safety training has also moved online.
Online workplace safety training programs can be cost effective and more convenient than traditional training programs – one of the reasons that demand for online training has increased. Business owners are rightfully conscious of their bottom line, and the ability to train employees on necessary safety skills without the added expense of transportation, and in some cases, time off, is a blessing.
However, not all types of training can or should be completed online. There are still advantages to in-person workplace safety training, and organizations should be careful to evaluate the intended outcomes of any training regime before deciding whether or not the training should be completed in an online format.
Workplace training programs, whether they are online or in-person, should meet the minimum content requirements set out by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (or the applicable governing body in your region). If your organization chooses to have employees complete training through a third party, ensure that the training being offered is compliant with all regional labour regulations.
What are the advantages of online training?
Online training does have obvious advantages – in many cases, participants can access online courses any time, meaning that workers don’t have to miss days of work or be off-site during work hours.
Online safety training also opens up more options in terms of which training organizations a company employs. For interprovincial or international companies, the opportunity to train key stakeholders on regional standards and laws with the help of a training company that is located in that region can be very valuable.
In many cases, online training courses are accessible to participants for a set period of time – allowing trainees the opportunity to refer back to lessons and materials during that period, and ensure a clear understanding of all concepts before moving on to the next unit.
What types of training can be completed online?
Certain types of training are suitable for online-only learning formats. For example:
- Joint health and safety committee certification
- Risk assessment training
- Respectful workplace training
The types of training that are appropriate for online formats are usually those in which the tasks and activities are mostly knowledge-based. For tasks like developing a risk assessment, where there is little to no direct interaction with equipment (beyond a computer), online training can be helpful.
Hazardous materials training and infection prevention training are further examples of training that can be completed online. At Fluent Motion, we offer an Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Basic Awareness Training course online. The advantage of an online infection prevention course is that it can apply broadly to many workplaces, and training can be completed asynchronously, in a short period of time.
What are the advantages of in-person training?
For many types of workplace safety training, in-person formats are still the most effective. Though in-person learning may represent somewhat more of a cost and time commitment than online formats, it is invaluable for teaching safety concepts that require direct interaction with equipment and environments.
In-person training offers additional advantages in terms of learning environment. Being in the same room as a teacher and fellow students creates a social atmosphere that is conducive to learning concepts beyond just what is in the textbook or on the curriculum. The opportunity to ask questions in real time and get one-on-one advice from a trainer, especially when working with equipment, is an essential way to learn practical applications for the safety concepts being taught.
In-person workplace safety training allows students to fully visualize and understand the way equipment and machinery functions, and how to recognize faults in real life, rather than comparing photographs or illustrations.
What types of training are best completed in-person?
There are types of workplace safety training that we at Fluent Motion do not offer online, simply because we feel that it is impossible to gain complete knowledge without hands-on experience.
These types of training include:
- First aid training
- Working at heights
- Equipment certifications (forklift, Aerial Work Platform (AWP), scissor lift, etc)
These types of courses and certifications require at least some hands-on training so that learners can familiarize themselves with the equipment and gain practical experience using it. An in-person training environment allows instructors to provide the degree of supervision required to confirm that a learner has understood the concepts.
In some cases, online components can be used to supplement in-person workplace safety training. But learning to operate machinery or equipment in the workplace is just like learning to drive – you need to have supervised, hands-on practice in order to fully understand the textbook concepts.
Certain types of equipment certifications – like forklift training – expire after 3 years. At this point, the worker is required to renew their certification by undergoing a training course and exam. In some cases, a refresher course like this can be completed online, and may be convenient if the worker is actively using the equipment in their job and is familiar with it. Even in these cases, we recommend an in-person component to equipment recertification, as this still provides a more complete picture of the employee’s proficiency with the equipment.
It’s important to know the safety training standards and regulations applicable to your industry. Sometimes, there is variation in the training requirements across different industries and sectors, even when the equipment and processes are very similar. For example, the requirements for in-person training are stricter in the construction industry, whereas in the industrial sector in Ontario there is no specific legislation to say that training can’t be completed online.
That said, that legislation identifies only the minimum requirements – if there are identified hazards in your workplace, then in-person training may be needed to adequately address potential safety risks and ascertain that core concepts can be applied effectively.
The bottom line
While online workplace safety training can be convenient, there is no substitute for the kind of hands-on learning experience that in-person formats provide.
In-person safety training is especially crucial for any task or job that requires direct interaction with equipment – whether that’s first aid training, or certification for a specific piece of machinery such as a forklift.
Even outside of requirements and regulations, learners tend to get more out of in-person training. Learning on site with an instructor in the room opens up a much greater opportunity for learners to develop a rapport with the instructor, and with each other; to form connections and ask questions that might not otherwise be asked.
At Fluent Motion, we believe strongly in the power of in-person workplace safety training. We have years of experience providing high quality training to stakeholders in a variety of industries, and we’re proud to provide personnel with the knowledge and hands-on experience they need to maintain a safe and efficient workplace.