Online Safety Training: A Comprehensive Guide For Managers

April 6, 2015 No Comments





It’s 2015, and today’s hottest occupational safety and health topic is online eLearning. Chatrooms and blogs are inundated with online training discussions.  Vendors are rushing to market with new, online training products.   Even OSHA has recognized its value and is promoting it

Progressive executives, HR directors, and operations managers love online training because it’s:  less disruptive of production, consistent, convenient, preferred by today’s tech savvy employees, and economical.

This article is intended to help safety professionals and managers who are new to online safety training understand the basics of this new training medium.   Once grounded in the fundamentals, you’ll be better able to select the best eLearning products for your company.


Online Safety Training 101

Who is the intended audience for online safety training?   Most commercial online safety training has been developed for educating “employees”.   However, another excellent application is for training your “third-party” visitors (e.g. contractors, vendors, visitors).

When it comes to online safety training for employees, one size does not fit all.   An effective program will need to take into consideration your company’s: size, type of industry, training budget, logistics, culture, EHS staff capabilities, computer infrastructure, and your employee’s computer aptitude.

To use online training, employees only need to be familiar with the basics of using a computer and navigating the Internet.   Typical computer hardware/software requirements usually call for Windows XP or higher and Adobe Flash.    The minimum Internet speed needed for online training is usually around 1.5Mbps (with 3.0Mbps or more recommended).

Employees typically take online safety courses in company training labs, or on computers that are set aside specifically for online training.   Some employers even reimburse employees who do online training at home (or at the library) during non-work hours.


Training Formats

There are four principal models for online EHS training.  The following is a brief summary of each one:

DVD Kits

Although DVD kits are not an online training format, they are the lead competitor to online training formats and are worth a mention here.   DVD kits have been around for a number of years.  Most of you already have extensive experience with them.   For an added fee, some vendors will allow you to digitize and upload the DVD to your company’s intranet network.   This would eliminate a number of the “cons” listed below.


  • Once you buy the DVDs, you own them forever. No ‘per employee’ licensing fees.
  • Thousands of available titles (not all DVD titles have been converted to online training yet.)
  • Only 15 – 20 minutes long.
  • Usually comes with printable extras such as a leaders guide, quiz, attendance log,certificate of completion, and wallet card.


  • Content can’t be updated or customized.
  • Must maintain and preserve the DVD library.
  • DVDs often need to be shipped to other company locations.
  • An instructor is usually needed for DVD based training.
  • Not as interactive as other formats.
  • Can’t be integrated into a company’s pre-existing learning management system (LMS).


Streaming Video

Streaming video is basically the delivery of safety training videos over the Internet.  Often, the streaming video content is identical to the vendor’s DVD product.  Anyone who subscribes to Netflix is already familiar with streaming video.

Payment plans include “pay per view”, and annual subscriptions that provide unlimited access to the vendor’s entire library of titles.


  • Content is periodically updated.
  • Content is available 24/7 ‘on-demand.’
  • Watch from anywhere, even a smartphone or tablet.
  • Great for multiple shifts and remote locations.
  • Same instructional materials as DVDs.


  • Not as interactive as some of the other formats.
  • Difficult for employees to ask questions during the program.
  • Often can’t be integrated into a company’s existing LMS. 


Interactive Online Training

Interactive Online Training is what most people think of when they hear the term “computer based training” or just “online training.”.   An employee sits in front of a computer, views a program that includes narration/video/games/case-studies, answers questions interspersed throughout the program, and takes a quiz at the end.

To aid in course selection, most vendors provide catalogs that list their online training titles by industry type.


  • Content can be customized to meet a specific company’s needs.
  • Content is self-paced.
  • Content is standardized.
  • Content is regularly updated.
  • Great for compliance documentation.
  • Available 24/7 “on demand.”
  • Compatible with smartphones and tablets means that workers can train from anywhere at any time.
  • Great for multiple shifts and remote locations.
  • Can be integrated with your existing LMS.


  • Difficult for employees to ask questions during the training
  • No hands-on training capacity.


Blended Learning

Blended learning combines online training and traditional, instructor led training.   Online e-learning is used to cover the fundamentals, then a live instructor reinforces them in a classroom or at the work site.

Some safety regulations (e.g. first aid, HAZWOPER, powered industrial trucks) require hands-on training.   Blended learning is the only e-learning model that will meet these types of hands-on training requirements.

Also, blended learning is the preferred model for any high hazard operation.

Only a few vendors have nationwide networks of instructors who are available to provide blended learning training at customer locations.   Those companies who have their own in-house safety staff will usually use them as their blended learning instructors.


  • Content can be customized to meet a specific company’s needs.
  • Content is regularly updated.
  • The best way to incorporate business specific content.
  • Can include hands-on training.
  • Instructor available to answer questions.
  • Arguably the most effective training model.


  • The most expensive training model.
  • A poor option for new-hires and remedial training as a consultant will need to travel to your business for a single employee which is cost prohibitive.
  • Finding time for a training session that fits into all your workers schedules without affecting production can be difficult.



Choosing a Vendor

Advice and Considerations

Choosing the perfect online training vendor for your company’s safety training needs may be the most important decision you make this year!

There are a bewildering number of vendors out there selling online computer based safety training programs.   On average, each vendor offers dozens of different products and titles.  Your challenge will be to find the vendor(s) that best meets your needs.

Each vendor tends to focus on a specific industry (e.g. transportation, healthcare, schools, construction, manufacturing, maritime, etc.).   Also, all vendors tend to offer similar titles in their catalogs (e.g. back safety, lock out/tag out, ergonomics, fall protection, etc.).

While all vendor’s product catalogs contain similar titles, how they address the same title will vary greatly between vendors.   For example, a vendor who specializes in “health care” will have a blood borne pathogens program that is extremely detailed, complex, and lengthy.   While the blood borne pathogens program that’s available from a vendor who specializes in “transportation” will be simple, short, and only cover the basics.

No single vendor will have all of the program titles that are best for your company.   For example, let’s say the health care employer mentioned above has the need for a safe driving training program for their employees who drive (e.g. delivery, ambulance, out-reach, etc.).  In this case, the vendor who specializes in “transportation” would likely have a better safe driver training program than the vendor who specializes in “health care”.

To help you select the vendor(s) that best meet your needs, we have developed a sample online training vendor questionnaire.   It lists the 33 critical questions that you need to ask each prospective vendor.

Our Recommended Training Provider

But what if you don’t have the time to contact 10 or 20 prospective vendors and ask each one all of the questions in our vendor questionnaire?   While you may not be able to screen numerous potential vendors, we do know of one company, Atlantic Training, that has already vetted over 20 popular online training vendors.   They sell training programs from all of the major safety vendors and can help you find the courses that will best fit your company’s needs.

The first time you visit Atlantic Training’s website, a customer service representative will ask you some questions about your company and your needs.   Because they have critically reviewed all 10,000 titles from these 20 vendors, they are able to suggest the specific programs that will best meet your needs.

You are able to purchase these programs directly from Atlantic Training at the same (or lower) price then you’d pay if had you gone directly to the vendor.   The reason they are often able to offer a lower price is because they don’t charge either sales tax or handling fees.

Unlimited Packages vs. Per-user Plans

Some vendors offer ‘unlimited’ training packages that give you access to their entire library to train an unlimited number of employees.  These packages are usually very expensive and the pricing is often based on the number of employees in your organization. 

Atlantic Training however offers exceptional value with their  ‘Unlimited Streaming’ offering.  It costs a flat rate of $1,995/year regardless of how many workers are in your organization.   For that price,  you’re given access to around 150 videos covering just about every workplace safety topic imaginable.   Each video comes with a printable quiz and a certificate as well. 

Since AtlanticTraining’s Unlimited Streaming offering uses the Streaming Video format, it is essentially a replacement for a DVD library.

Online Safety Training Infographic

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