Editor’s note: Online health and safety training is a booming industry, but how can employers and the public be assured that workers are completing course requirements? In the third in a series, Troy Media looks at gaps in regulation that throw the integrity of online learning into doubt.
Online safety training for workers is here to stay. The ability to deliver affordable quality training at flexible times – and in remote locations – makes online an unbeatable option in many applications.
But, as with any new technology, we need to be aware that there are risks associated with delivering vital safety content to personnel without having a method of ensuring the intended trainee is receiving the information.
In fact, many at-risk personnel are still being ‘trained’ online using outdated methodology that blindly pushes out the training content. These obsolete systems have no way to determine if anyone is watching the content, who is clicking the keys, or ultimately whether the certificate of training is being awarded to the person who was on the other end of the computer.
It’s the unfortunate truth that safety training has become an administrative process for many employers and simply a revenue stream for training companies and safety associations.
Regulators have communicated what’s expected. For example, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety has stated that “training organizations should not be providing proof of training to any individual that they (training organizations) cannot verify as having completed the training.”
With such a requirement in place, why does it still occur?
It’s likely because the client drives safety standards in the minds of many employers. It’s fair to ask: If Alberta’s largest organizations will accept training where the workers identity and participation is unverified, then why should independent employers, training companies and/or associations do more?
This needs to change.
Think of the risks that are created through the use of unverified online training. These risks can include poisonous gases, explosions, electrical shock or even being attacked by a bear. Regulations require employers to provide training to make their personnel aware of risks and to show them how to either avoid the risk or how to protect themselves.
Industries such as oil and gas, mining and industrial construction seem to be largely unaware or unconcerned about the verification issue, except for a few leaders noted below. Yet industries considered to have far fewer and less severe risks have been taking significant steps to maintain the integrity of their training efforts. For example, in most jurisdictions the food safety and alcohol service training industries ensure their online training verifies both worker identity and participation.
There are organizations in oil and gas, mining and industrial construction that take verification seriously, says Robert Day, co-founder of Integrity Advocate, a learning technology company that provides organizations with the ability to verify the identity and participation of online learners taking training on desktops and mobile devices. He pointed to PCL Construction, Suncor Energy and Disney, which all use Integrity Advocate to ensure the integrity of their online training.
To its credit, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has created and published a guide called Online Training Identity Verification and Remote Proctoring. Released in June 2018, the guide identifies industry best practices and concludes with this sober recommendation:
“If an organization is not adhering to the expectations outlined within this document yet using training for the purposes of regulatory compliance, due diligence or as part of risk mitigation efforts, the method of training delivered should be restricted to instructor-led.”
Unfortunately, CAPP’s proactive guidance is not enforced by regulators. In fact, employers are not effectively being told by regulators that the identity and participation of online learners must be verified.
The volume of online training grows every year because there’s substantial return on investment to organizations. A survey by Trainingmag.org found that in 2018 mandatory or compliance training in the U.S. was mostly done online, with 82 per cent of organizations doing at least some of it online and 28 per cent entirely online.
Until clients stop accepting unverified training and regulators more loudly express their expectations, the integrity of risk mitigating training will be in doubt.
This opinion piece is partner content prepared for Troy Media by Big Tree Communications.