Safety Culture Excellence®

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Training vs. Education

April 8th, 2015

More and more organizations are using computer-based training (CBT) modules.  Most started using them for OSHA-required yearly refresher training.  The CBT approach had some advantages:  workers could attend individually rather than in a classroom with multiple students and an instructor; the individual training approach caused less disruption of business activities than a classroom approach; the training was self-paced so everyone could move through the materials at their own pace; the modules could include testing for knowledge levels; and the CBT could keep current rosters of who had completed the various modules.

Then organizations expanded the use of CBT into more questionable areas.  Along this path, someone forgot that CBT is education; not training.  You can impart information via computer but you cannot build manual skills.  Relying on CBT to teach manual job skills or even basics such as fire-extinguisher use is only a partial approach.  Students end up having knowledge without skills.  If the CBTs are followed up with on-the-job training or classroom simulations, the knowledge can begin to be translated into skills.  Without such follow-up, CBTs can simply create a false sense of competence that can, and has, resulted in serious safety incidents.



-Terry L. Mathis


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Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS three consecutive times. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence (2013, WILEY).