The most disabling workplace injuries and illnesses in 2012 amounted to nearly $60 billion in direct U.S. workers compensation costs. This translates into over a billion dollars a week spent by businesses on the most disabling injuries. – 2014 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index
How can organizations prevent mishaps at the workplace? What does it take to create a safe working environment? Well, companies need to make their people aware of the risks and train them on the required safety practices and procedures.
The online medium is ideally suited to impart safety training to the workforce. Here are some of the advantages of using e-learning for safety training.
But, how can companies create a good online course on safety? The answer – they need to adhere to the ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 standard.
What is the ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 standard?
This is a standard given by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). According to the standard, companies need to follow a 5 step process to create an excellent e-learning course to impart safety training. It is not mandatory for organizations to follow the standard. However, it is highly recommended that they do, as it helps them build highly effective courses on safety.
Here are the steps of this process.
- Assessing the work health and safety training needs
- Framing the learning objectives of the online course
- Designing the e-learning course on safety
- Delivering the online course to its target audience
- Evaluating the efficacy of the e-learning course
Let us now look at each step in detail.
1. Assessing the work health and safety training needs
This is arguably the most important step in the creation of an effective online course to impart safety training. Information gathered in this step serves as the basis for the execution of the subsequent steps.
Organizations need to pay attention to 2 important aspects while analyzing the training needs. They are:
- Regulatory norms specified by the federal, state and local authorities
- Target audience of the safety training course
Regulatory norms specified by the federal, state and local authorities
While designing the safety training program, it is necessary to comply with all norms prescribed by the federal, state and local regulators. The Department of Industrial Relations of the State of California and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have come up with a comprehensive resource for this purpose.
Target audience of the safety training course
A fundamental prerequisite to create an effective work health and safety course is to understand the target audience of the course well. Here are some questions that need to be asked to know your learners well.
- Who will take the safety training course?
- What do they expect from it?
- How will they apply the learning?
- Do they have any prior knowledge of the safety norms?
- What is their level of education?
- What is the job profile of the learners? Are they white-collared employees or blue-collared personnel?
- What is their comfort level with computers?
- What are the pre-requisites for taking the course?
- Are they native speakers of English or is English their second language?
- Do the learners have special needs?
- What is their age?
- Are they likely to get inspired by a game-based learning or would they prefer a more formal approach?
Having a clear mental picture of your learners will help in designing effective online course that can deliver excellent safety training.
2. Framing the learning objectives of the online course
Once the analysis of training needs is completed, it is time to frame the learning objectives of the online course on work health and safety. The learning objectives indicate the desired outcome of the course, or in other words specify what you want your people to be able to do after completing the course.
Learning objectives go a long way in helping:
- Finalizing the course content
- Ensuring effective learner facilitation
- Assessing the cost and duration of the course
Learning objectives basically comprise the learning outcomes in terms of performance on the job as a result of training. For example, employees should be able to:
- Operate a piece of machinery as per the safety parameters
- Understand the health hazard due to improper handling of chemicals
- Follow safety guidelines when handling dangerous substances
Setting a clear-cut learning objective ensures training programs are developed in accordance with the learners’ needs and the ultimate objective of the organization.
3. Designing the e-learning course on safety
The next step in the process prescribed by the ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 standard is designing the e-learning course on safety. For this, you need to:
- Collate all required resources
- Develop the lesson plan for the course
- Create the learning content
Collate all required resources
You need to collect all the material needed to design the course such as brochures, pamphlets, government regulations, guidelines by regulatory bodies, videos if any and so on. You can also take inputs from the managers and employees who can identify the need for safety training in line with their individual experiences. It is important to take into consideration their inputs for the training program because it accurately reflects the expectations of the staff.
Develop the lesson plan for the course
Once all the necessary inputs have been gathered, it is time to prepare a detailed lesson plan for your course. Ideally, the lesson plan needs to include:
- Review of information already known to the learners
- Performance objectives of the safety training program
- Information required to achieve the learning objective
- Techniques which will be used to present the content
- Methods used to evaluate the learner’s comprehension of the subject matter
- Methodology used to assess the efficacy of the course
Create the learning content
Based on the lesson plan, design the content of the work health and safety training course. It is advisable to use the following learning activities in the course.
- Hands-on activities
- Risk maps
- A list of do’s and don’ts of each activity
A resource guide or FAQs for complex terms or concepts can be developed and made available online in the printable format. These learning activities are very useful to establish a positive learning framework where participants accept lack of knowledge as a normal trend and keenly engage in discussions and sharing of experiences.
4. Delivering the online course to its target audience
The penultimate step in the process suggested by the ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 is the delivery of the e-learning course to its target audience. To ensure effective transfer of work health and safety knowledge and skills, we need to do the following.
- Create awareness about the importance of safety
- Tell the learners “what’s in for them in the course”
Create awareness about the importance of safety
Safety awareness games can be organized during downtime. Posters can be put up at strategic places to sensitize employees about forthcoming safety programs. Pamphlets, email campaigns and messages from senior management about the organization’s commitment to employee safety and organizational safety can be used to reinforce the need for safety training.
Tell the learners “what’s in for them in the course”
Most often, employees might feel that safety training is being conducted just to fulfilla mandatory requirement. There could be a misconception about these training programs as being more of an organizational requirement than they being an important aspect of training for employees. This is not true. Safety training is as much the need of the employees as of the organizations. It is therefore important that employees are given specific instances of how the training would benefit them at an individual level. For example, you could explain that the:
- Number of accidents would reduce as employees understand how to handle equipment properly
- Unsafe practices can be avoided, and thereby, a better work environment would be created
Once safety awareness is created and learners understand the benefits of the course, you need to implement the e-learning course on work health and safety. You need to use a Learning Management System (LMS) for this purpose. This is because safety training initiatives need to be documented for review by competent authorities. Certificates might have to be issued on successful completion of the course. It would make coordination and implementation easy if all the safety training initiatives are routed through a learning management system. It would be easy to communicate with learners, announce upcoming training programs and assign required courses to relevant target segments through a learning management system. Organizations can use their existing learning management system or set up an LMS exclusively for work health and safety training courses.
5. Evaluating the efficacy of the e-learning course
The last step in the process prescribed by the ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 is assessing the effectiveness of the online course on safety. The Best Practices for Development, Delivery, and Evaluation of Susan Harwood Training Grants document suggest three types of training evaluation. They are:
- Training session reaction assessment
- Learning assessment
- Training impact assessment
Training session reaction assessments
These assessments are useful to know the perceptions of the learners about the online course. The information gathered through these assessments is very useful to improve the quality of future courses as they help measure the relevance of the learning content and the efficacy of the instructional methods. For this purpose, a questionnaire can be given to participants immediately after the conclusion of the e-learning course. Some of the areas that can be dealt with in the questionnaire are:
- Relevance of the course material to the job
- Uniqueness or familiarity with the course content
- Value-added features of the course
- Presentation styles
- Purposefulness of the materials or resources shared
Evaluate the change in the knowledge, skills and attitude of the learner as a result of taking the course. You may use pre-tests and post-test to get a clear idea of the learning that has taken place. It is also advisable to check the retention of knowledge by conducting assessments three to six months after the completion of the course. You can include the following questions in the learning assessment.
Training impact assessments
This assessment is conducted three to six months after the completion of the course. It is used to evaluate the involvement of workers in safety committees, number of formal complaints filed, and dissemination of work health and safety knowledge with co-employees who did not take course.
The ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 standard states that based on the evaluation of the efficacy of the course, steps need to be taken to improve the online course on work health and safety.
If the evaluation reveals that the online course is not able to achieve the desired objectives, the needs assessment will have to be re-reviewed and course content revised accordingly. Any feedback that has been given by participants, senior managers or supervisors with respect to the training content needs to be reviewed and incorporated in the subsequent training update.
Also, you need to conduct periodic review of the training content to ensure that it is current and incorporates the latest policy changes, rules and regulations. Ideally, all safety training content needs to be reviewed annually for checking its relevance.
Most accidents or injuries can be avoided provided companies adopt a work health and safety training policy to prevent workplace accidents. The ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 standard, by specifying a systematic process to develop a good safety training course, helps organizations ensure legal compliance and create safe work environment, thereby improving productivity. What do you think?