Companies still have a responsibility to maintain workplace safety beyond the pandemic.

Right now, the continuing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a primary concern for businesses everywhere. Some are consumed with finding ways to operate in the midst of unprecedented shutdowns and restrictions on commercial activity. Others are busy devising plans to safely reopen their facilities and offices, in an effort to ensure the safety of both employees and customers. With each passing day, more companies that are a part of the former group are edging closer to joining the latter.

As that happens, it’s natural for business leaders to maintain their laser-focus on coronavirus containment measures. Still, the situation doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility to maintain workplace safety that extends well beyond the current crisis. This is especially true in industrial environments, which have, as always, a much more complex challenge where worker safety is involved.

The good news is, it’s a challenge that the manufacturing sector has been doing a much better job at in recent years. And to avoid sacrificing all of those hard-won improvements, it’s important that industrial and manufacturing facilities find ways to continue their workplace safety training despite the difficulties posed by the coronavirus. Here’s how they can do it.

Increase Reliance on Online Training

The first thing that businesses should do to maintain their workplace safety training efforts is to increase the availability of online training courses wherever possible. Doing this requires first sorting through the necessary training initiatives and separating out the portions that don’t require any in-person exercises. In many jurisdictions, relevant authorities already offer a wide variety of occupational health and safety courses online that can help employers meet their training obligations with no need for classroom instruction. By shifting all possible training to an online platform, businesses can decrease the demands on their on-site training facilities and use the newly-free time to step up sanitation and decrease class sizes for maximum social distancing benefits.

Design New Pre-Instruction Screening Procedures

Of course, there are always going to be circumstances where online training won’t suffice. And since classroom training must now take place with maximum care (and in some cases with attendance restrictions still in place), businesses need to create screening procedures to minimize the chance that an infected employee might attend. Doing so starts with creating a self-diagnosis procedure to help employees determine their risk of infection, so they might avoid attending training if they’re potentially positive for the virus. There are several online self-assessment tools that businesses can direct their employees to use before confirming a training appointment. And once there, all attendees should undergo a temperature screening before being admitted to the training location.

Explore Virtual Training Technologies

For a while now, there’s been a steady movement within occupational safety training circles toward using the latest augmented reality and virtual reality technology to create more effective and individualized training programs. To that end, researchers at a variety of educational institutions have spent the past few years looking into the efficacy of the technology, often with encouraging results. For large employers, it’s already possible to design custom training exercises that take place using VR. Vendors like 3M offer subscription-based VR training modules that apply to a variety of industrial and manufacturing safety needs.

And smaller employers can still take advantage of the trend in other ways. For example, The Red Cross and the American Heart Association are already allowing CPR and AED certification training to happen remotely. In that case, the required equipment is delivered to the trainee at home (or in the business’s training facility) and the lessons and hands-on testing happen via videoconference. Using such methods employees can acquire many required workplace safety certifications without coming into direct contact with an instructor or other learners.

Continuing to Improve

By taking the actions spelled out here, businesses that operate industrial or manufacturing facilities can continue to build on the multi-year improvements to worker safety they’ve worked so hard to achieve. They don’t have to let the coronavirus pandemic consume their attention to the point that they start to let other critical workplace safety threats creep back into the picture. And, in addition to satisfying whatever regulatory compliance measures they’re subject to, keeping workers as safe as possible is just good business. So, although it may seem easier to put off some safety training during the early days of reopening amid the pandemic, it’s in everyone’s interests to make general workplace safety a priority both now and as we head into a post-coronavirus future.

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