eLearning is a great resource for almost any industry.

It allows you to train people from all over the world, and make your materials available any time of the day, so employees can constantly brush up on skills or get access to tools and resources they need.

But when it comes to actually putting together the materials for your eLearning course, your specific industry does matter – especially if you’re in an industry that relies on training for safety and compliance issues.

Why? Well, safety and compliance comes with more rules and requirements, for one. But there’s more to it.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re developing an eLearning course that involves safety and compliance.

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What Makes Safety and Compliance eLearning Unique?

One of the main differences between a regular eLearning course and one that incorporates safety and compliance guidelines is that it is quite literally a matter of life and death.

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Around 4,821 workers died on the job in 2014 as a result of safety issues. Of those fatalities, the leading cause of death was related to falls, followed closely by electrocution, being struck by an object, or being caught in or between something. These “Fatal Four” are responsible for more than half of construction deaths each year.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Falls – 899 total deaths with 359 being in in construction (39.9%)
  • Electrocutions – 74 (8.2%)
  • Struck by Object – 73 (8.1%)
  • Caught in/between – 39 (4.3%)

The last category includes construction workers killed when caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material.

When you take that into consideration, it becomes clear that getting the right information into your worker’s hands is less about helping them progress in their careers and more about saving their lives.

So what does this mean for eLearning? For one, you will need to find a way to communicate highly technical information in a way that keeps people safe and prevents fatal injuries (or any injuries, for that matter).

And doing that via the Internet or through simple graphics and text isn’t as easy as you may think.

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How to Communicate Technical Information

An effective eLearning course needs to strike a balance between producing content that’s useful and comprehensive while still being engaging enough so users will actually pay attention to it. Being useful and engaging is particularly necessary for safety and compliance courses that may save someone’s life, too.

One of the challenges facing safety and compliance eLearning is trying to communicate technical information to a broad range of individuals. You want to simplify the content without watering it down. Here are a few ways to do that.

Use Simplified Language

The brain is designed to learn technical concepts faster when things are presented in common vocabulary rather than industry-specific language. It’s important to use plain English with clear terminology that translates well into any language. Again, you don’t want to water things down, but you do need to eliminate any unnecessary jargon so that the layman can grasp the concepts quickly and easily.

Use Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies

If you’re still not sure how to do that without watering down concepts, you can use metaphors, similes, or analogies to communicate your point. These methods work well for communicating technical information with the least amount of distortion. Comparisons and contrasts in particular can help translate information clearly, enliven dull data, and help your learners discover new ideas in a relatively short time.

Use Images and Animations

65% of people are visual learners, and visual tools can be useful for displaying technical information in a highly consumable but low effort form. You can share dynamic data, demonstrate moving parts, or even how to assemble a piece of equipment properly to avoid injury. If you have the choice between using only text or images/animation, choose the latter (though it’s best to do both, like with an infographic or diagram).

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Source : Westfield Insurance

Provide Step-by-Step Instruction

Instead of relaying information in large chunks, as many textbooks or instructional materials would, eLearning works best when broken down into smaller more manageable sections. “How to” articles or videos are the perfect way to do this, as they provide step-by-step instructions that can be applied to real life situations easily (they’re popular for a reason).

Include Assessments

Finally, in order to overcome confusion and make sure that people understand how to apply what they’re learning in your course to real life events, there should be a way for users to provide feedback or demonstrate what they’ve learned in some way. A few ways to do that include using simulations (guided practice) or by incorporating some form of assessment (questions, etc.) at the end of your courses.

Other Safety and Compliance Considerations

Another factor that safety and compliance industries have to consider when putting together materials is making sure that OSHA’s requirements are incorporated into every lesson.

Include All OSHA Requirements

OSHA has a Compliance Assistance “Quick Start” Guide for general industries needing to train in safety and compliance (but they also have separate guides for construction industry compliance and health care compliance, too).

This guide includes the following areas that all training materials should also be included in your course:

  • Hazard Communication
  • Emergency Action Plans
  • Fire Safety
  • Exit Routes in the Workplace
  • Walking/Working Surfaces
  • Medical and First Aid

Have a Plan Before You Start

Having a plan in place for communicating this information is essential to your employees getting the most out of their eLearning experience.

You will want to plan your course using the following:

  • Detailed course plan – a comprehensive outline of course content and structure
  • Supporting resources – often a course glossary or external PDF files (worksheets, forms, job aids) that users can launch and print from within the course
  • Assessments – draft questions for quizzes, exams, and course evaluations
  • Prototype module – a sample module with media for clients to approve before proceeding with development of the full course
  • Completed, fully enabled program – the completed program for full testing

The more thorough you can be, the better. Remember, it’s important to simplify complex terms while still communicating the importance of the information. After all, your eLearning course is about more than just sharing information… it’s about preventing injury and saving lives.

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Final Thoughts

While eLearning is a great resource for communicating new information to your employees, those that work in the safety and compliance fields have extra considerations when creating their courses.

Your course has to communicate safety issues in a way that’s simple and straightforward while still being engaging. To do this, use common language, playing on analogies and metaphors. Don’t be afraid to visualize concepts using infographics, images, or animated videos.

And most importantly, don’t forget to include any and all OSHA requirements. Have a plan in place for making sure this information is clearly communicated before you start building your course.

Jonathan Davis is an accomplished professional with experience helping Fortune 500 companies achieve success in employee communication and training programs. Jonathan focuses on delivering reliable, successful outcomes that increases employee engagement through highly targeted deliverables, creative messaging and robust programs.