With Open Arms

Online safety training is the answer for employees on the go, and they embrace it enthusiastically.

ARE you capitalizing on the benefits of the Internet to boost employee training?

Dennis Cuddy is. The safety training specialist for the Arlington, Va., Department of Environmental Services overcame the challenge of training his large staff of field employees by selecting a flexible, Web-based training solution.

E-learning solved Cuddy's dilemma by providing his employees with 24/7 access to training courses that feature video-enhanced content, customization capabilities, English and Spanish versions, and extensive tracking options.

"The employees like going on the computer because it's more convenient for them to fit their safety training into their work schedules," Cuddy said. "We chose video-enhanced content because it illuminates the material and helps workers go through the courses."

Cuddy's workforce includes many employees with limited computer skills, so his first chore was to get them up to speed. He purchased new computers, set them up in training rooms in each division, and offered computer training to employees who needed it.

Incentives Play a Role
Then, he started an incentive program to introduce the online training. "Every employee that went online got a raffle ticket. And if we chose an employee's name, he won $50," Cuddy explained.

He also sent e-mails to the employees, notifying them about the program, listing the available courses, and explaining how they could go online to take them. It was all part of his plan to boost employee responsibility. "One of the biggest pluses of online training is that it gives individuals the responsibility to do their own training," he said. "And when employees accept this responsibility, they do it with open arms. We allow each employee to be responsible and take ownership."

E-learning provides employees the opportunity to view the safety training programs whenever they wish--during a rainy day in the office, or even in the comfort of their own homes. "A few of the employees came to us and expressed their wish to do online training on their home computers after the work day is over, so we allow them to complete the training at home," he said.

Customizing for Added Relevance
Cuddy selected a variety of courses covering a wide range of safety issues, including lockout/tagout, respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, forklift certification, confined spaces, and trenching and shoring. The courses include compelling live-action video sequences that are accompanied by text and graphics to reinforce the training message.

The courses are also customizable, providing Cuddy an opportunity to add original content to make the training more relevant to his workforce. "I added policies and procedures that are related to our county and pictures of county employees," he said. "The next time employees go through them, they will be like new courses."

Ten percent of Cuddy's employees are Spanish speakers, so it was critical that he selected an e-learning solution that offered courses in multiple languages. With a simple touch of a button, the workers can be trained in their native Spanish language. "It's important to know my Spanish-speaking workers understand everything that is required of them to do their jobs safely, and keep them safe each day," he noted.

Testing Features
The online safety courses feature pre-test and post-test segments to measure employee retention, which helps Cuddy monitor his employees' understanding of the subjects. "Online training is like a book," he said. "Each course is a book, and each book has chapters. After you read each chapter, you are tested. And you are tested at the end after you complete the book."

Cuddy also benefits from the flexible administrative options that are a key feature of online training. He can sort employee data by title, division, and department to maintain an accurate record of every employee's safety training progress. "I'm happy with online training. But what's most important is that my employees like it," he said.

Sixty percent of his employees made the jump to online training in the first year, Cuddy said, with most of the employees now trained according to his standards and working safely--the e-learning way.

This article appeared in the November 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the November 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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