I am often asked if I believe online training can “replace” all instructor-led training. My answer is an unequivocal “no.” Online training is just one tool in the “blended approach” that constitutes today’s best practices.
Recognizing that different types of training all have benefits and limitations, a blended approach taps the complementary strengths of multiple tactics. Take forklift training, for example. OSHA requires knowledge training on concepts like stability and center-of-gravity. Compared to instructor-led classrooms, good online training can often convey that knowledge more effectively, efficiently and consistently, with unmatched scheduling flexibility. However, OSHA also requires hands-on training with the equipment — here an instructor is essential. In fact, one benefit of the blended approach is that time saved by using online training where it works best gives instructors more time to do exercises, coaching and other tasks they do best.
A blended approach is also beneficial in other areas of safety, including assessments. While every company does assessments, some rely almost solely on periodic formal assessments by outside consultants or a corporate EHS group. Such assessments are very important — but if you rely on those alone, you risk creating a culture of “managing to the assessment.” The focus turns toward “winning” assessor approval through last-minute preparation “blitzes” rather than continually improving and sustaining safety. Knowing an assessment is in progress, employees may take precautions they sometimes skip or “hide” known risks. Plus, even the most diligent assessment experts can only provide a snapshot in time. Warning signs that happen outside that snapshot may go unnoticed until the next assessment period — which might be too late.
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