January 19, 2006
Electronic safety training gains momentum
Bob Christie, a partner in Edmonton-based Christie Communications Ltd., says safety training has come a long way from the 1970s when a colleague was asked by a manager at a coal mine: “Are we running a coal mine here or a f***ing college?”
“Today we recognize that all training is safety training,” says Christie. “And that takes many forms, including training that’s removed from traditional classrooms.”
Christie’s company has created construction safety training programs for the Alberta government, including electronic-based courses. He says the secret to developing electronic material is to avoid getting caught up in a particular technology. “We make the training available in a number of ways—CD, DVD, and web-based, for example.”
The Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO) offers several courses in on-line formats, though computer-based programs may be more suitable for home study, says Carlos Figueira, Special Projects Co-ordinator with CSAO.
“You have to look at some construction environments to see if it’s suitable. You may not have the facilities to set up a laptop or computer on smaller sites, or in residential construction.”
But CD-based and on-line courses are becoming more popular, says Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association.
“It’s a key component of our strategy to get out to areas where it’s more difficult for us to go—Northern Ontario for example. I imagine that market will continue to grow.”
One of the questions surrounding worker-initiated training, however, is the process of certification. If a worker completes an online or computer-based course, what proof is there that the worker actually completed the test without assistance?
Christie points to an Alberta case where a supervisor at an industrial facility completed tests for a dozen workers. “He made the mistake of bragging about it in a bar,” says Christie. “For higher level certification testing, people are now expecting that, even if the material is studied elsewhere, the testing be done in a supervised environment. In some cases, the worker scores his or her own test in a different coloured pencil. The completed test goes into the worker’s files.”
CSAO has instituted similar testing procedures for home-based courses.
That approach also satisfies due diligence requirements, says Christie.
He cites a case where a worker was disciplined after causing damage with a backhoe. “The union withdrew its grievance against the employer after they produced a test signed and completed by the worker, showing he knew the correct answer to question number 37.”
Will construction workers of the future be accessing content on their video iPods?
“I have a problem with safety training on a two-and-a-half-inch screen,” says Christie.
“But maybe that’s a generational thing. If the technology meets a need, the training will find a home.
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