Providing Safety Training in the Era of COVID-19

Providing safety and health training is a core component of an effective occupational safety and health management system. Robust safety training equips employees with the knowledge needed to identify hazards related to their jobs, as well as the tools they need to protect against those hazards. Safety training also helps eliminate or minimize costs associated with workplace injuries, including medical bills, workers’ compensation and OSHA citations. Federal, state and local regulations also mandate that employees receive safety training. These have prompted many employers to provide safety training at no cost to their employees.

Before the pandemic, most safety training was done in the traditional in-person classroom setting. However, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the way many companies facilitate safety training. Performing training in the traditional sense became almost infeasible as public health guidelines required employers to minimize employee contacts to limit the spread of the disease. Many companies made the tough decision of doing away with training altogether. Others adopted approaches such as providing virtual training and minimizing class sizes to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

At Faith Technologies, the pandemic pushed us to make the difficult decision of suspending our annual in-person training weeks that provided instruction for nearly 600 employees during a six-week period at our regional hubs across the country. In lieu of that, our training and safety departments partnered to develop virtual training modules for all our core safety courses and made them available through our online classroom portal. The virtual training includes a blend of audio, video, written material, and in some cases, live facilitators. Employees are paid for their time to complete these trainings, which can be done as their schedules allow.

There is no doubt that virtual training has its challenges. We have realized that some of our safety courses, such as arc flash and confined space training, are more effective when facilitated in-person as opposed to virtual learning. The hands-on session of confined space training, for instance, allows employees to use the tools and equipment in a confined simulation which helps their understanding of the subject matter. Other virtual challenges include the lack of interaction between an instructor and students, which could hamper effective understanding of the topic. Technical glitches may also interrupt online training sessions. On the other hand, virtual training gives employees the flexibility to complete training as their schedules allow. Despite all its challenges, it’s good to have virtual training as an optional tool that can be utilized even when pandemic-related concerns are lessened.

One thing we have learned in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the traditional in-person style of training is not the only option. To be successful, companies must be willing to maneuver and adapt their processes. At Faith Technologies, the pandemic provided the opportunity for us to do just that – think differently about our learning strategy.

How has the pandemic changed your company’s approach to providing employee training?