Is online safety training as good as classroom training?

Andrei Rebegila, eSafetyFirst Canada CEO, explains the company's platform, the impact of the pandemic, and the benefits of virtual training

Is online safety training as good as classroom training?
The pandemic have pushed a lot of safety training online.

During the past year, plenty of safety training centres were either closed or had their activity constrained by COVID regulations. In these dubious times, online safety training was on the ascension and many companies sought alternative solutions in online safety programs.

The question remains: Are these programs just as good as the instructor-led programs? In today’s article, we are discussing this topic with Andrei Rebegila, the CEO of eSafetyFirst Canada, one of the leading platforms in online safety training in Canada.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and the eSafetyFirst platform that you have developed?

A: I’ve been in the safety training industry for roughly seven years, so not that much compared to other professionals out there, but where I lacked the skills, I ascertained to employ them with the purpose to offer the best possible service on the market through a user-friendly interface. With eSafetyFirst, for me, the focus has always been to heedfully perceive all our customer’s feedback and adapt our product based on our customer’s needs, and that is why one of my daily tasks is to answer our support line personally as I am dedicated to assisting all of our customers. 

We have proudly reached 36 courses, all created in accordance with OHS regulations and standards. We are currently developing two incipient courses but considering we also want to combine two training programs into one course, we will probably be sitting at 36 courses for this year.

Q: As a business owner, how did this pandemic impact your business?

A: On one side, many employers and private individuals applying for a job were looking more into online training solutions during these times in comparison to a classroom option, but on the other side many people lost their job or there simply weren’t that many job opportunities, so in return a large portion of the market was lackadaisical towards renewing their safety training program. I would say that the numbers were evened out, so overall I would say that auspiciously, this market has not been impacted negatively by the pandemic.

 Q: What are the main benefits of an online training program over a classroom training program?

 A: Generally speaking, most benefits derive from accessibility. With our online training platform, within five minutes from visiting the website, you can have your account set up and have the option to commence the course right away. There is no need to schedule appointments, commute to a certain place or chase instructors for certificates. Furthermore, the testing results are provided right away and the users are learning at their own pace. They can pause, resume, go back to certain parts of the content at any hour of the day, and so they are not circumscribed to complete the training in one go or at a certain hour where they might simply not be available. What's more, our platform allows the users to retain access to the course even after finishing it, so you can always go back to the course in case there are certain doubts. I believe this is very consequential because, frankly, nobody is going to accumulate so much information within just a few hours of training and being able to go back and check the material, at any time, is essential.

On top of that, since online platforms have the option to automate so many components of their services, there aren’t that many human resources involved, thus reducing the cost for customers (in some cases our courses are even 10 times cheaper than a classroom program).

Q: Who should use an online training platform and who shouldn’t?

A: This question tackles a very important subject. If you look into today’s job listing market, over 70 per cent of job postings require a certain safety training certificate. There are multiple problems with this aspect.  First of all, the employer is the one that is responsible for the employee’s safety training, meaning that they should be the one that selects the appropriate level of training based on the job obligations. Secondly, the employees are not necessarily apprised with the OHS Act and Regulations, as this is not a component of their vocation or their job obligations, so in many cases, they are not aware of the hazards that are specific to the job they are applying for or what their safety training should involve. Last, but not least, many of these programs involve a certain amount of workplace hands-on practical and evaluation components which should be completed inside the workplace. Even if certain types of equipment share the same standard, in most cases, two workplaces will not be using the same type of equipment, nor have the same hazards. Let’s take an Electric rider truck for example vs an Internal combustion engine hoist trucks... they are both compliant with the Forklift Safety Training B335-15 (R2020) Standard, but the hazards and the templates for pre-operation inspection or operator evaluation are not going to be identical; so even if you complete a classroom training program, your level of safety training is not going to be according to the standard because you utilize a piece of equipment that is not the same as the one in your workplace.

While on one side I understand that for some smaller companies it can be financially arduous to follow the standards, select and pay for the appropriate level of training for every employee, if you wish to have a growing company that thrives, I believe it is paramount to invest into your employees and sustain a safe workplace environment.

Q: What has eSafetyFirst done to mitigate such problems?

A: There are a few things we’ve done. Most importantly, information and education. Most of our courses have a resources section that points to recognized Canadian information sources. For example, for those courses that require a specific workplace hands-on practical part, we’ve provided templates and concrete plans as to what has to be followed in terms of evaluation or pre-operation inspection, directly from safety standards that are recognized in Canada. Compared to other online safety training companies out there, that have developed programs from multiple sources, most of them from US standards or even other countries, we appraise the customer's sources that are in accordance with the Canadian standards and regulations only.

Furthermore, we are the only online training company that offers group training solutions. The employers can utilize our system to create a group of minimum six individuals where they can all take the training at the same time and have an instant result after completing the testing section. More importantly, with our group training option, the employer/supervisor can check what questions were problematic for the trainees and get redirected to the part in the course where they can find the answer to those specific questions. Additionally, they can utilize this system to combine it with workplace-specific tasks so they can complete everything from inside the company. While the group training has been quite a significant investment for us, which has not paid off yet, as with COVID and everything going on, companies are not probing for such solutions, we believe it will be very useful once this pandemic will come to an end.

Q: From your experience in the industry, would you recommend online safety training over the classroom?

 A: Considering I own an online safety training company, my answer might seem scarcely counterintuitive, however I strongly believe the answer is somewhere in the middle. As we have previously discussed, I believe every employer should answer this question for themselves, and not expect candidates to complete certain programs which might end up not being proper to their job duties. On top of that, not all online training companies are self-regulating or investing as much into their systems as we are, so there are plenty of them out there that I would not recommend. While it is true that there is always room for improvement, I am very confident that we are the best available solution on the market right now, so to sum it up, I would highly recommend our services.