Immersive Training Prepares Workers When Moments Matter

Immersive Training Prepares Workers When Moments Matter

Safety professionals face more challenges than ever in keeping training on target during these challenging times.

For most employers, adequate safety training isn’t just desirable, it is also required by law. For example, OSHA requires trained first aid providers at all workplaces of any size if there is no infirmary, clinic or hospital in nearby proximity to the workplace. Since proximity is interpreted by OSHA as help that can arrive within three to four minutes of the emergency, most workplaces will need trained first aid responders. In addition, OSHA requires cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training in certain industries, such as electrical power, due to chances of sudden cardiac arrest from asphyxiation, electrocution or exertion.3

Workplace disruptions of the past two years have forced educators across-the-board to reimagine the way they teach and learn, and this is no different for CPR and AED training. Recent research underscores that education providers must build the infrastructure to support new learning methods, fully integrating technology into classrooms by becoming familiar with a range of online learning approaches and incorporate rigorous quality control. These newer modalities such as online or virtual learning, hybrid learning environments and blended learning, combine in-person learning with an online component.  

“Public health disasters such as Covid-19 can encourage innovation and create out-of-the box thinking in educational settings,” provided these components are in place, Minnesota State University Moorhead researchers concluded.  

Adapting to this new training “normal” is especially pressing for employers since some industries will always require employees to be in-person. If there is a forklift accident in a food distribution warehouse, for example, managers need to know that a fully trained person is nearby and ready with the necessary lifesaving skills. They also need to know that, despite the pandemic disruptions of the last two years, the employee’s emergency skills are as sharp as they can be.  

Unfortunately, the numbers show that workplace emergencies are an enduring reality. According to the most recent data5 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers reported 2.7 million injury and illness cases in 2020. Over the same period, employers reported 4,764 fatal injuries on the job. 

Slip, trip and fall accidents are some of the most prevalent work injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 percent of the 888,220 nonfatal work injuries in 2019 resulting in days away from work were related to slips, trips and falls. Also, 229,410 injuries the same year due to contact with objects and equipment were so severe that they resulted in time away from work.  

In addition to CPR and AED training, some employers are required by law to have first aid responders on staff who are adequately trained by a nationally accepted and medically sound first aid program. OSHA also requires that the specific content of the first aid programs be consistent with the work environment in question and must be kept up to date with current first aid techniques and knowledge.  

All told, employers are facing more challenges than ever in keeping training on target during these challenging times. Fortunately, some organizations are leading the way. 

Reimagining Ways to Learn and Teach  

Owen Long, the president and CEO of Sertified, a safety training organization in Chester, Maryland, is one safety trainer who was forced to abruptly modify the ways he and his instructors trained.  

“Instructors such as myself had to take a step back and rethink how we taught things due to new obstacles in how we delivered courses,” he recalled.  

Organizations such as the American Red Cross, which trains more than 4.6 million people in lifesaving programs every year, also pivoted to meet the needs of employers. The goal was to ensure that ever-changing strategies to maintain healthy business operations didn’t diminish lifesaving skills and that companies met or exceeded OSHA obligations. This is especially pressing for the many industries where telecommuting is not an option, such as construction and manufacturing.  

When the pandemic hit, several new, innovative educational models that provide First Aid/CPR/AED training to meet the needs of workplaces that may—or may not—have the capacity for in-person training were employed. 

For OSHA-regulated industries requiring in-person First Aid/CPR/AED skills training, the organizations like the Red Cross now offer “active learning,” a proven educational methodology that heightens learner attention and engagement, reinforces essential lifesaving actions and improves learner confidence during a real-life situation. In this method, the emphasis is on peer-to-peer learning where learners take turns simulating the role of an active lifesaver, a coach and an observer. These in-person skills sessions are further enhanced with all-new live-action videos including the latest scientific advancements in lifesaving care.  

The approach allows for half of the class to now be spent on hands-on training as well as a highly active learning environment with greater opportunities for feedback among peers and instructors. Instructors are finding that this process ensures more personalized—and more effective—training and evaluation of learner skills and knowledge. 

Notably, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for course content for scenarios when an ambulance is unlikely to arrive within the optimal four to eight minutes of the event. This information focuses on training employees to manage care for immediate, life-threatening events such as cardiac arrest, choking or severe bleeding. It’s a crucial necessity in an era where EMS services are stretched thin.  

Long stressed the importance of learning how to respond in a group. “You are not responding to an emergency alone and if you are, help's coming,” he said. “We need to learn how to integrate that into the response.”  

Customizing Emergency Training for Specific Workplace Needs  

Employers can now also access “Skill Boosts,” options that can be customized to the workplace, such as training a first aid responder on the administration of Naloxone, the lifesaving drug that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. 

Mickey Sjoberg of Medcor in McHenry, Illinois, said that her workplace training organization relies heavily on Red Cross blended learning in the age of Covid. “I would say that probably 70 percent, if not more, of the classes that we’re hosting are blended learning,” she said, adding that it is augmented by in-person skills practice of no more than a handful of people at a time to maintain social distance.  

Sjoberg reinforced Long’s observation about the value of learning from one’s peers because people respond to emergencies in groups. “It's designed that when you're doing your scenario-based training, you have a team that you can confer and confirm with,” she said. 

For employers that want to offer employees an online option for the cognitive portion of First Aid/CPR/AED training, they are encouraged to use a blended learning approach featuring “adaptive learning,” a methodology that allows learners to take an online pre-assessment and then receive training customized to their educational needs, saving them time on material they have already mastered.  

Covid-19 has forced huge changes in traditional approaches to education. In the reimagining of training in the Covid era, these new methods meet employers and employees “where they are” with training that give immediate responders the confidence to take immediate action when minutes matter.  

Publisher's Note: The following appeared alongside this article as a sidebar in the OH&S Magazine June 2021 issue.  

Stand-Alone “Mini Courses” Boost Modern-day Lifesaving Skills 

Within the past year, a Medcor clinical onsite nurse responded to a workplace overdose, initiating Naloxone, starting CPR and using an AED. The person survived and Mickey Sjoberg, Medcor’s manager of training, reports that this client “is now doing a deep dive into what we can provide for them.” 

Options under consideration to augment standard First Aid, CPR and AED training are specialized “mini-courses” that customize emergency training so that participants are prepared to respond in the moments that matter.  

One of the mini-courses focuses on opioid overdose and the administration of Naloxone, the lifesaving drug that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. The 45-minute training helps individuals recognize an opioid overdose and teaches them how to administer naloxone through a nasal spray or nasal atomizer.  

Opioid overdose training is needed because the national problem has become so deadly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid-related overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017. They remained steady in 2018 with a similar number of deaths. “This was followed by a significant increase through 2020 to 68,630 overdose deaths,” the government public health agency found. 

Meanwhile, the overdose problem has spilled into the workplace, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that overdose deaths at work from non-medical use of drugs or alcohol increased for the seventh year in a row in 2019.

These mini-courses are taught as stand-alone modules to participants that are already Red Cross-certified, or they can be added to a First Aid/CPR/AED course. In addition to the opioid overdose module, other courses topics include: anaphylaxis and epinephrine auto-injector administration; asthma and quick-relief medication administration; life-threatening bleeding and tourniquet application; and head, neck, muscle, bone and joint injuries and splinting. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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