e-learning isn’t e-ssentially best


Many businesses understandably want to perform in a cost-effective way.  Their aim is to cut their operational costs so that they can perform as effectively as possible, whilst keeping staff costs to a minimum.  Ways in which companies might attempt to reduce costs might be within the area of training and worryingly within the area of Health and Safety training.


Employers have an obligation to ensure that their employees are trained to carry out their jobs in a safe way, for example they should be advised the correct way to lift or move items and the potential dangers that they might face by not following the correct procedure.  This training should be adequate for the role that they carry out.  However, due to a lack of staff cover or funds available for face to face training for employees, some firms decide that e-learning is an adequate form of training for all roles.  However, when the role is one of responsibility for the safety of others, e- learning might not be enough.


A Co-op employee recently suffered multiple leg fractures due to a roll cage full of milk falling on her leg.  The offending roll cage had been identified as broken two days before but staff at the Co-op did not appear to have an adequate grasp of their Health and Safety responsibilities.  Therefore, the injured employee had been put at risk by the lack of awareness of certain staff.  The Co-op store was fined £333,334 and the validity of staff Health and Safety training was questioned with the Co-op accepting that there had been an over-reliance on e-learning, which might not have been appropriate in this instance.


What can be learnt from the unfortunate incident with the Co-op employee, is that training needs to be relevant to the outcome.  Health and Safety training is required by Law and for all companies, there needs to be confidence that staff have sufficient knowledge of the equipment they’re expected to use and the measures that need to be in place.  Health and Safety training should be competency based and each employee must be able to demonstrate that they are competent in identifying potential risks and carrying out their role safely.  They should also be able to prove that they  have sufficient knowledge about the procedures for reporting and dealing with risks.  E-learning often involves learning about a subject online and then ticking a box confirming that you understand what you’ve been shown. Often if you fail an assessment within e-learning, you can go back and re-do it until eventually you get it right, this can just be a case of persistence rather than really learning anything.


The case with the Co-op has demonstrated that where Health and Safety is concerned, training needs to be thorough and allow employees to demonstrate what they have learnt in a practical way.  E-learning, whilst often useful is not always relevant to all training needs.


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