Online Safety Training

Use of computer programs and the Internet to conduct online safety training was first recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the early 1990’s in a series of interpretation letters.  In general, “OSHA believes that computer-based training programs can be used as part of an effective safety and health training program to satisfy OSHA training requirements, provided that the program is supplemented by the opportunity for trainees to ask questions of a qualified trainer, and provides trainees with sufficient hands-on experience.”

OSHA’s Position on Online Safety Training

Some of the key points from those five OSHA interpretations letters are summarized below.  Though the letters are interpretations of HAZWOPER rules, they may be useful for understanding OSHA’s general position on online safety training and serve as a guide when reviewing commercial products.

  • The employer, not the training provider, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that employees receive the proper training to perform their duties.
  • Employers can use the computer-based training programs to help meet the minimum requirements for the course content material of a training course.
  • Trainees must have the opportunity to ask questions in order for training to be effective-a telephone hotline or e-mail satisfies OSHA’s requirement for trainer access if the employee can ask and receive a response from a qualified trainer.
  • Employers that use computer-based training must still meet the minimum duration and type of hands-on or supervised training specified in OSHA requirements.

Since the early 1990s many companies, organizations and commercial groups have developed a range of courses covering legally mandated OSHA training as well as building on performance based best practices for online safety training.

OSHA Online Safety Training Guidelines

OSHA themselves have accepted several organizations’ online safety training programs as a part of their voluntary Outreach Training Program.  The OSHA guidelines for inclusion in the program, while not regulations, include a variety of features that are important in developing online training, many of which are a part of TrainingToday.  The online safety training guidelines include:

  • Testing and reporting test scores for each topic and a final test
  • Removal of anyone scoring less than 70% after three tries on any program topic
  • Mandatory page views of each content page
  • Easy trainer availability built into the system
  • Printable online materials for each topic
  • The course must be interactive
  • Tracking students’ time in the course
  • Providing required reports and evaluations

In addition to the many commercially available web based training sites, many online safety training courses can be made available as a part of a company wide Learning Management System (LMS).  Courses can be produced in a Shareable Content Object Reusable Model (SCORM) format, and can become a part of a comprehensive company wide training curriculum.

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