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The training that you and your workers need will differ depending on their job requirements, but these days, there are plenty of options suitable for any company size, learning style, and employee experience level. And since on average businesses spend nearly $1,000/year on training for each employee, you’ll want to make an informed decision on what route is best for you.

Let’s break down the most popular options — traditional instructor-led training, online training, and hybrid or blended training, a style that includes elements of both.

Instructor-led safety training

Instructor-led classroom safety training has long been the status quo for many companies. For decades, there weren’t any other options. But in today’s technology-driven world, many organizations still opt for this traditional learning method. 

Benefits of instructor-led classroom safety training

  • Your team can complete training together. If you can manage to gather your entire group in a classroom, instructor-led training is a great option. That way, everyone completes training simultaneously and you don’t have to spend time scheduling separate sessions.
  • Employees can ask the instructor questions. An invaluable benefit of instructor-led training is the accessbility of the instructors. If an employee doesn’t fully understand a concept or wants further elaboration on a topic, they can ask questions in the moment. These impromptu Q&As often spark conversation, which enriches the training experience.
  • Leaders can correct mistakes in a low-risk environment. In high-risk environments like construction sites (where hundreds die each year), you won’t always have the opportunity to correct errors. But, as an example, during a classroom demo, an instructor has the chance to fix something like a poorly fitting respirator — something that would easily go unnoticed on the job site. 
  • You have more visibility into how participants are handling the information. Classroom training allows you to observe how your employees are comprehending the material. If you notice employee disengagement or confusion surrounding certain topics, you can always request that the instructor take a deeper dive or even create your own toolbox talks on the subject. 

Potential drawbacks of instructor-led training

  • It’s time-consuming. Safety training takes time — sometimes even days (think the OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER class). Plus, instructor-led training comes with other time-consuming responsibilities like finding a trainer, scheduling training days, and more. 
  • It can be challenging to schedule. It can be an enormous challenge to find a day (or days) that works for an entire team to participate. 
  • It can be cost-prohibitive. There are several costs associated with planning an instructor-led training session or sessions, including hiring the instructor, renting out a space, and providing meals, not to mention the productivity lost because workers aren’t on the jobsite.

Instructor-led safety training is a viable option for workers who:  

  • Work in high-risk environments 
  • Are young or new to the company and haven’t received comparable training before
  • Are kicking off a large project 
  • Don’t have stable internet accessibility 
  • Prefer learning in groups

Online Safety Training

Online safety training has become more popular in recent years, especially when it comes to compliance training. A whopping 82% of organizations completed at least some of their mandatory or compliance training online, and 28% of them completed these trainings entirely online.

Benefits of online safety training

  • Employees can go at their own pace. Being able to complete courses at a comfortable pace is an excellent worker benefit. As long as they’re not in a time crunch, they can take as much or as little time as they need to complete each module. So if they know a subject like the back of their hand, they can complete the reading or video and move on. On the flip side, when they come across an unfamiliar topic, they can pause, rewind, and review as needed.  
  • The modules are always available. Many online platforms will keep modules available to workers even after they’ve completed their training. So if one of your workers needs a quick refresher, they just need to log in and press “play.” 
  • Online training is easy to track. Going digital with safety training has significant implications for documentation and reporting. Many online platforms or Learning Management Systems will track progress, completions, and certifications. Plus, some platforms automatically send reminders to workers and safety managers when it’s time to complete more courses.
  • The language barrier is lowered. Language barriers can make learning an enormous challenge for people. When asked about their experience taking training in English rather than their first language, one worker even said, “If workers with limited English have a concern or doubt, they have to keep it for themselves because they can’t communicate it to others. Like right now, I don’t know exactly how many feet the ladder should be placed from the wall.” Online training is often offered in multiple languages, which can help teams overcome this barrier and, in turn, keep workers safer.

Potential drawbacks of online safety training

  • Instructors might not be as readily available. When you’re in a classroom setting, the instructor is at the front of the class, ready to take questions. In an online scenario, your team will have to rely on text, calls, or emails to get in touch with the training company…or just not ask questions at all.
  • Technical difficulties are a possibility. Technology is a beautiful thing — until it’s not. Internet connectivity issues, computer crashes, password lockouts, and more technical difficulties can affect your workers’ experience. 
  • You need to pay close attention to OSHA requirements. Online modules can be tricky — sometimes modules won’t fulfill even the most basic OSHA requirements. So you need to do your due diligence to ensure the online training you choose will meet your national and state safety standards.

Online safety training is a viable option for workers who:  

  • Have a lot of experience
  • Are working in low-risk environments, like an office
  • Need certifications quickly 

Blended or HybridSafety Training

Blended — or hybrid — training, which employs a combination of instructor-led and online components, is picking up steam across all industries. In 2018, 69.3% of training hours were delivered with blended learning techniques, up from 34.7% in 2017. It’s an especially popular training strategy with small and midsized companies, as the bulk of their training hours (79% and 86% respectively) go towards blended learning.  

Benefits of blended or hybrid safety training

  • You get the benefits of both online training and instructor-led training. That’s the beauty of a hybrid system — you get both. 

Potential drawbacks of blended safety training

  • Scheduling can be even more challenging than with instructor-led training. Hybrid safety training has multiple parts, posing another scheduling hurdle. First, you need to schedule the instructor-led phases, and then ensure your team gets access to and completes online modules in a timely manner. This inherently staggered approach to passing employees can lead to hiccups, especially if starting or continuing their duties hinges on completing a particular training. 

Blended safety training is a viable option for workers who:  

  • Have mixed experience levels 
  • Need hands-on experience, but can learn other content online (e.g., First Aid training) 

The bottom line

You’re responsible for making sure your workers receive adequate safety training based on their duties. If you’re not sure which training style is best suited for your organization, contact us to speak with one of our occupational safety experts.