Often a seemingly small incident can create other risks and lead to further accidents. (Mastery Technologies photo)

Online Training Keeps Things Moving

Meet your immediate warehouse training needs with convenient, low-cost online training.

Compared to manufacturing or other industries known for being dangerous, warehousing and distribution is often thought of as a low-hazard industry for exposures leading to injuries and fatalities. However, the incident rates of non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the warehouse and distribution industry are more than double the general industry rates, according to the 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employees often don’t perceive the hazards associated with the warehousing industry, but "sleeping exposures" do exist, and they lead to accidents and injuries if proper safety procedures are not followed.

The dynamic, fast-paced atmosphere of a warehouse exposes you to a myriad of hazards, from improper forklift use to bad lifting techniques and exposure to hazardous materials. Often a seemingly small incident can create other risks and lead to further accidents. It might seem okay to drive your forklift with the load elevated the short distance to the other side of the warehouse; the dent you put into the top of the open, roll-down door might not even seem like a big deal. That is, until a fire breaks out and the door no longer works properly. Or you decide to drive without your seat belt fastened and, upon colliding with the door, jolt forward, leaving you with severe lacerations and injuries.

Rich Veleta, a loss control consultant at Dolle Risk Management in Cincinnati, described accidents just like these and explained how critical it is for employees to not become complacent regarding safety procedures. The need for safety training is immense, and special needs may arise at any time, leaving you anxious for training materials and time to squeeze into an already tightly scheduled work flow. Online training provides the platform for skill development, as well as the convenience and flexibility for employees to train anywhere and at any time.

Whether you have a new hire coming on board or need to address an immediate safety concern, online training allows employees to engage in skill development when the need becomes apparent, instead of waiting to schedule a classroom training session. "If you have one new hire or even a few, they could be waiting weeks before it is feasible to hold classroom training," said Bill Marker, president of Mastery Technologies, a publisher of online workplace training. "Those first weeks are most hazardous for new hires. And with online training, a new employee can begin learning and developing new skills the second they have access to a computer with an Internet connection. In fact, you’d be surprised how many people prefer to complete their online training assignments from home."

Online training also allows you to capture workers' attention when they are most receptive to refresher training, such as when an accident or near-miss occurs. These unexpected events provide the perfect teaching opportunity and should be capitalized on, whether or not they fall in line with your regular training schedule. Employees involved in an incident can start training immediately, while the consequences are fresh in their minds.

One-on-One Attention
Beyond the benefit of accessibility is the advantage of employees' being able to work through material according to their own learning capabilities. An individual employee is able to learn at his or her own pace, and interactive online training courses can go a step further to ensure mastery of concepts. Lesson interactions presenting scenarios to learners help them apply the concepts to their own jobs. For example, instead of merely seeing the steps of a forklift inspection, the lesson might present the learner with real-life decisions. If the person answers incorrectly, the material is reviewed until the learner retains the knowledge and masters 100 percent of the learning objectives. This type of learning is not always possible in a classroom format because the instructor has to focus on presenting to an entire class versus providing one-on-one attention.

Employees also gain the benefit of learning through video demonstrations, modeling, and dramatizations. A video can model the proper and improper way to use equipment, only without putting people at risk. Video also provides additional demonstrations where an instructor may be limited, such as presenting examples of the repercussions of unsafe behaviors. For example, instead of just hearing about potential negative outcomes, workers can see video showing what it looks like to tip a forklift or impale a co-worker with the forks. Online training also can supplement other training initiatives, such as providing a resource for a blended-learning environment or supplementing custom courseware.

"One of my clients, a large international company, uses off-the-shelf training courses as prerequisites for employees to take before they go through the company-specific information," Veleta said. For example, a company might present a powered pallet jack course to employees to teach the basics of the equipment; this is then followed up with specific training on the manufacturer's recommendations for the equipment being used on site. "Making custom courses is much easier than it was, say 10 years ago. You can easily convert power point presentations into online courses, which can be managed along [with] off-the-shelf content in your learning management system," said Veleta.

Off-the-shelf courses provide a cost-effective way to present common safety procedures, saving companies the time and resources from developing the material themselves. Online training also provides a quick and low-cost solution to training employees to comply with new and updated regulations and standards.

The update to OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard to meet the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a perfect example. The warehouse and distribution industry will be one of the first to deal with shipments of materials using the new labeling system. Without proper training, employees may not immediately recognize or fully understand the new labeling system, putting them at risk for exposure to hazardous materials. This puts pressure on companies to train employees quickly to understand and comply with the new OSHA regulations.

Companies working with online training can roll out new training assignments quickly on the Hazard Communication Standard updates, before the new labels come in. Having a prepared workforce lessens the risk for exposures and accidents and helps ensure productivity when new shipments of GHS-compliant stock are being moved around the warehouse.

Efficiency and productivity are always top of mind when managing a warehouse. Great concern is taken over using the building space, equipment, and staff to maximize the return on investment. A well-trained workforce provides the outputs you are looking for, while solely relying on classroom training takes away from the resources you depend on.

Online training does not drastically impact or disrupt your workflow. It allows you to keep things moving without taking a significant hit on your labor costs. Online training is a reliable, cost-effective, engaging resource to help you develop and train your employees to prevent accidents and injuries while complying with government regulations.

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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