The Pros and Cons of Online Safety Training Courses

The rise of online training programs has dramatically expanded access to safety information. Cost effective, always available, and easily tracked, online courses have plenty of advantages. At the same time, there are limitations to the online format that can leave important sources of risk unaddressed.

The many advantages of online safety training

A healthy skepticism about online training products should not disregard the many advantages such programs provide. In fact, few employers can afford to not use some form of online training. Advantages like these are hard to ignore:

  • Cost. Online training tends to be significantly more affordable than in-person programs, especially once opportunity costs like employee time are factored in.
  • Always available. Employees can complete training courses wherever they are located and at any time. This can be especially important for employers with staff in remote places. It also ensures that training can fit around employees’ other responsibilities.
  • Auditable engagement. A good online training course includes usage tracking and tests to ensure employees are fully engaged and learning. Metrics like the time an employee spends on a module can give the employer concrete means of verifying compliance.
  • Consistency. A hallmark of good safety training is a consistent message across the entire organization. When everyone hears the same advice, they can help each other reinforce what they’ve learned.
  • Repetition. Programs can be made available for repeated viewings and refresher courses on a regular basis, allowing the organization to ensure that important principles stay fresh in employees’ minds.
  • Specialty topics. Some businesses need training on specific safety risks but trainers are either very expensive, too far away, or hard to schedule. An online course can serve as an enhancement tool or as a replacement when getting an in-person trainer on-site is impractical.

Online training has its limits

As useful as online training can be, it isn’t a perfect replacement for in-person programs. There are several reasons why this is true:

  • Distractions. As anyone who has sat through an online course will tell you, staying focused on a screen for very long can be difficult. The distraction element can be cut down by having employees work through a course as a group, but that isn’t always practical.
  • Limited opportunity for questions and feedback. Many of the lower cost training options simply provide static videos with little or no opportunity to ask follow-up questions. If employees can’t access a qualified expert for further advice, important gaps may remain after the program ends.
  • Limited customization. An online course can only address general principles and rarely covers every safety hazard present at a job site. An in-person trainer can examine the actual conditions and practices that drive real-world safety, addressing the particular issues that are most likely to create problems and drive cost.

Harness online training as part of a broader safety program

Every employer can benefit from the power of online safety courses. Whether they are enough to establish a strong safety culture and reduce incident rates is a different question. At Gunnin Insurance, we work with clients to review their safety practices and identify strategies that will get the client to its goals. Give Gunnin a call today or visit our Risk Management portal to view the online training we have to help companies develop their risk management strategy.