Current Trends in Safety Training for the Blue-Collar Workforce
🍿🍿 9 min. read
Blue-collar workers have limited time for training, but organizations cannot compromise on safety. So how can you ensure your workforce is always up to date on safety training? How can you cultivate a culture where safety is integrated into employees’ everyday work? Let’s learn a little more about this audience’s training needs and then dive into some trends in safety training.
Safety is non-negotiable
The blue-collar workforce is the backbone of society. These workers keep industries running and often perform functions with higher safety risks than the average white-collar or services employee. They also have unique needs when it comes to training. Since they typically don’t work at desks all day, taking an online training module is a disruption to the flow of their work. But training is not optional—especially when it comes to safety.
3 trends in safety training
A robust safety training program is non-negotiable and must cover a wide variety of topics. More than that, it must be effective, as reflected by the number and severity of safety incidents that occur. Safety training isn’t a “check the box for legal purposes” exercise. It must result in safer work conditions and employees who are empowered to be proactive when they see a safety concern. Let’s look at three trends in safety training that you can use to your advantage.
1. Focus on ethics over compliance
No doubt you understand the importance of compliance training. Organizations need to train employees on their policies and what behaviors comply with those policies. State and federal laws and regulations generally drive those policies. It’s about risk management. If an employee breaks a law or is injured, the organization is exposed to legal and other risks.
But how do you get beyond checking a box for legal purposes to actually driving change in employee behavior? Compliance asks, “What do I need to do to comply with the policy or the law?” Ethics asks, “What is the right thing to do in this situation?” Both are needed, but many organizations are realizing the importance of focusing on ethics over simply compliance.
When it comes to safety training, the goal is to create a culture of safety where employees:
- Keep safety top of mind in everything they do
- Feel empowered to act when they have a safety concern
- Take initiative to correct a safety issue even if it’s not their job
- Can question and provide input on processes related to safety (and feel their opinions are respected)
2. Upskilling is a necessity
The second learning trend to consider is the need for upskilling. Attracting and retaining quality talent is a challenge. Blue-collar jobs saw a labor shortage even before the pandemic, and this has only increased in recent years. With more people choosing a four-year college degree over training for a skilled trade or other so-called blue-collar career, a skills gap exists in many industries.
The importance of upskilling is well-known when it comes to people who generally work in offices (or their homes). But it’s just as important in blue-collar jobs. In a recent survey of blue-collar workers, almost half of the respondents wanted to work on a degree or certificate or move into a leadership position within the next few years. As one writer asks, “Are you doing enough to accommodate their desire to grow as professionals and keep them around long-term?”
One way to both retain current employees and address the skills gap is to develop a robust skills training program with a focus on safety. Develop training around the skills you need and open this up to employees who want to learn something new. This includes topics related to specific job tasks but also soft skills and leadership training.
Training programs must move beyond one-off ethics and compliance training modules toward a model of continuous learning and development.
3. Quality is in high demand
Blue-collar workers need high-quality safety training that is effective and doesn’t waste their time. The nature of many blue-collar jobs means that most workers don’t spend all day at a desk. They don’t have the same availability to complete online training modules or attend meetings as their white-collar counterparts. That doesn’t mean training can never occur at a computer or in person. It does mean that all training must be laser-focused on essential topics.
The best training approach often involves small, short pieces of content delivered in a variety of ways. Consider what method of delivery best suits what you need to communicate. Think of a short YouTube-style tutorial for how to use a machine, a digital safety checklist related to a job task, or a diagram illustrating a process.
Another factor driving the demand for quality might be generational. In a recent survey of blue-collar workers, only 7% of respondents were baby boomers and 30% were millennials. More and more blue-collar workers today grew up with the Internet (or gained access at an early age). They’re used to consuming high-quality media and finding information quickly when they need it.
How trends in safety training affect content
Next, let’s look at the recent evolution of the content and courseware experience and where it might be going next.
Probably the two most common methods for delivering training are instructor-led sessions and eLearning. Instructor-led training might occur in a classroom with an instructor talking to employees and showing PowerPoint slides. Or it might happen over Zoom or other conferencing software.
eLearning allows organizations to package training in an easily reproducible way and deploy it to large groups of workers. An eLearning module might be anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour long. The trend in recent years is toward shorter modules, as the volume of training is growing and workers have less time to devote to each module.
These two models of training have been mainstays for years, and they aren’t going away. But they are evolving, and new training methods are emerging.
Another important aspect of training includes resources that employees might find useful. These take a variety of forms, such as:
- Job aids
- Instruction manuals
- Blogs or other articles
- Reporting systems
These could be PDFs housed on a SharePoint site or another internal site—or they could even be posts on a public website. Content curation is an important part of learning, as bringing together useful information that doesn’t live inside a traditional eLearning course can enhance learners’ knowledge.
One of the biggest safety industry trends is microlearning. Microlearning isn’t just a short eLearning course. Think of microlearning as any small piece of content that employees access when they need it most. It could be an eLearning module, but it could also be a video, article, or other learning element. A microlearning object is very short—ideally, under three minutes—and it covers just one topic or learning objective.
Microlearning objects can be used on their own or as reinforcement of key points delivered in eLearning courses or in-person sessions. For example, microlearning supports retention by up to 80%, so releasing a microlearning module a few days after a training session can help ensure workers get (and remember) the message.
Learners also prefer microlearning. They can access the learning objects when they need them and can return to them later if they need a refresher. There’s no need to sit through a 40-minute course.
From learning management to learning enablement
Employees need safety training delivered in a variety of ways. This means that organizations need technology that is up to the challenge. In the past, an organization generally delivered eLearning courses through a learning management system (LMS). The LMS model is great at doing a couple of targeted things—allowing learners to take training courses and keeping track of who completes each course. But as trends in safety training lean toward continuous learning over one-off compliance modules, modern learning platforms must evolve.
Technology must enable content
The traditional LMS requires workers to sit at a computer, log in, and take a course. But today’s workforce requires a more integrated approach. Consider PintPoint Workforce, a mobile-first platform that helps organizations manage risks, training, and other safety-related tasks in a single app.
PinPoint engages workers in the learning process by delivering training and other tools that are essential for doing their work on a day-to-day basis. The technology doesn’t just house eLearning courses. It delivers resources, allows employees to report safety incidents, alerts workers of relevant safety data based on their location, and even allows users to create content themselves.
The technology is flexible, allowing an organization to use it in unique ways to meet their needs. As safety industry trends evolve, this technology allows you to keep up. And it doesn’t require workers to log in to a computer to take training—an unrealistic requirement in many blue-collar settings. Because PinPoint is mobile-first, workers can complete all tasks through an app on a phone or other mobile device with a first-rate user experience.
Learning in the flow of work
One of the current trends in safety training is learning in the flow of work. When workers need to complete a specific task, can they easily find a quick tutorial video or checklist? Can they access workflow diagrams, reports they need to fill out, and other material essential to completing their work?
Better yet, can the learning platform automatically deliver these resources to workers when they approach the machine or equipment that requires them? How can we merge learning with the real world to better serve workers in fast-paced environments? PinPoint helps organizations take the concept of learning in the flow of work to the next level, using location-based services. Create hotspots in the physical environment so when a worker approaches a specific machine or area of a building, they get reminders, safety notices, or other information.
Employees are the focal point of delivery
Similarly, modern safety training technology sees the employee as the focal point of delivery. Instead of requiring a worker to go look for information, the technology delivers the information to the employee. It knows the employee’s location and helps facilitate their ability to complete their tasks.
Goodbye LMS; hello LXP
The model of the past was to create content and deliver it through an LMS. But the learning industry is moving on from the learning management system to the learning experience platform (LXP). LXPs not only deliver training; they drive engagement. Workers use them on a regular basis to take required training, get information they need to do their jobs, learn new skills, and complete tasks such as logging safely incidents or filing reports. LXPs like PinPoint can handle your back-office EHS and compliance processes, as well as deliver training to frontline workers.
Modern LXPs are employee-centric and intuitive; their creators take their cues from popular apps like Uber or Doordash. The emergence of xAPI allows apps to pull and track data from a variety of sources. Microlearning elements allow employees to dip in and out of learning as needed. The skills gap and workers’ desire for increased knowledge and career opportunity are pushing a need for continuous learning and measurement rather than one-off compliance courses. These trends in safety training aren’t going away anytime soon, so learning platforms must evolve.
The future of safety training
The trends in safety training are clear: it’s time to move away from long training sessions and focus more on learning in the flow of work with microlearning objects. But where might this take us in the future?
Augmented reality will enhance learning
Augmented reality (AR) allows you to interact digitally with the physical world. Some well-known examples of AR include:
- The Pokémon Go app, where you visit real-world locations to find Pokémon characters
- The Ikea Place App, which superimposes a piece of furniture on your phone’s view of a room in your home
- Snapchat filters that place funny ears on your image
In the future, safety training could use AR to do things like:
- Instruct a worker on how to use a piece of equipment by superimposing images onto the real-world item
- Teach technicians how to diagnose a problem using an AR model
- Provide step-by-step instructions for a real-world item or task
PinPoint already has workable AR capabilities and will continue to develop and enhance in this area.
Learning platforms will be responsive
LXPs will continue to evolve beyond just ways to deliver content. They will combine worker engagement with assessments and on-the-job measurements for a personalized snapshot of a worker’s skills and development trajectory. These platforms will provide continuous learning, delivering content in a responsive way because they know what the employee already knows and what they need to improve on. The end goal is application: workers apply what they learn on a regular basis because the content they’re accessing is relevant and targeted.
Don’t be afraid to call the experts
EdgePoint Learning and PinPoint partner to deliver expert learning content and program development with an innovative LXP. Are you ready to evolve your learning program to keep up with current trends in safety training? Or maybe you’re not quite there yet but need help developing content for your training program for blue-collar workers? Let us partner with you to make your learning program a success. Contact us to set up a consultation to see how we can help.