Keeping up with workplace safety training is critical to protecting your employees from harm and your company from the financial and legal implications of accidents. Each year, workplace accidents cost U.S. companies $62 billion and an estimated $1 billion weekly in direct workers’ compensation payouts alone.

Now, the stakes are even higher, as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work. Companies that never had to think about public health as a part of their operations now must diligently train employees in the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infectious disease control. And, with the number of COVID-related lawsuits mounting, companies cannot afford any room for error in their safety programs. Complicating matters, safety guidelines and best practices are changing frequently as we learn more about COVID and how it spreads, forcing companies to continuously adjust their protocols and training programs.

Aside from adding COVID-related content to the curriculum, the way we train is also shifting dramatically. With some 42% of the labor force now working from home full time — many while also caring for children and doubling as home school teachers — the sheer logistics of training are more complex. Employees are stressed and pressed for time, and their schedules are unpredictable.

As a result, companies must adapt the way they create, manage and deliver safety training in order to provide effective content, maintain compliance, and protect employees and the company from harm — physical or financial.

1. Keep up With Changing Protocols

As the science around COVID-19 evolves, safe operating guidelines change frequently, with new guidance issued on a weekly or even daily basis. Make it a habit to check daily for updated recommendations or requirements at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s guidance page, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “What’s New” page, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s guidance page, and the websites of any other regulatory bodies governing your business. Sign up for automated email alerts that deliver new guidance directly to your inbox to stay current.

2. Reevaluate Your “Build Versus Buy” Decision

Because changes are happening so quickly, it can be hard to keep your training curriculum up to date. Does your organization have the time, staff and resources to revise and deploy new materials at the cadence required? If not, now is a good time to consider using a training content provider with the dedicated resources to keep pace with updates and the scale to deploy new content rapidly. Keep in mind that most providers can customize their content to your industry or company, so you’re never boxed into off-the-shelf training that doesn’t quite fit your needs.

3. Shift Your Delivery Methods

With physical distancing requirements and travel and indoor gatherings discouraged, the days of face-to-face training are gone — possibly forever, now that we’ve proven the potential of remote learning. Virtual training is a necessity now, but because things are changing so quickly, it can’t be a one-and-done initiative. Training programs must be ongoing and available in real time, on demand and across multiple devices to give employees the access they need, when they need it.

This approach enables both work-from-home employees and in-the-field workers to complete required training on their own schedule. For example, truck drivers can train during a break with an iPad, and field technicians can catch up on new standards during lunchtime on their mobile phone. Shifting to on-demand training ensures that the organization implements the latest updates and employees can train on a schedule that meets their needs.

4. Strengthen Your Measurement Standards

It used to be enough to provide proof of training in the event of a lawsuit, but many states now mandate routine training in areas such as sexual harassment prevention and diversity, which makes detailed standards a must for compliance. Beyond just checking the box of completion, it’s important to shift toward gauging employees’ understanding of the material to make sure they know the “the why” behind policies and the risks for noncompliance.

Implementing engagement metrics can help you track trainee understanding and provide feedback to help you revise content for continuous improvement. Metrics like time spent on specific modules, activity completion rates, total time to completion and drop-off points can help you identify content that’s too difficult, too easy or too boring. Use surveys to gather employee feedback to learn what’s working and what’s not. And, of course, tracking on-the-job performance — behavior compliance, incident rates, etc. — will help you improve training quality and ensure that employees aren’t mindlessly clicking through slides or starting a video and walking away.

5. Implement Real-time Compliance Tracking

Many industries are required to provide proof of training to a regulatory body, but using spreadsheets to keep track of who has completed which training is insufficient to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing landscape. Instead, implement a real-time compliance solution that automatically sends proof of completion to designated managers and enables you to instantly provide verification of an employee’s entire training history.

A compliance tracking solution not only makes it easier to produce the necessary documentation but also helps keep your compliance program up to date. The best platforms keep track of upcoming recertifications, licensing and refresher needs and send automatic alerts to employees and training managers about upcoming expirations and renewals. This automation saves your team time and hassle and provides you with peace of mind.

6. Remember That There’s a Human Involved

The whole point of safety training is to protect your employees from harm, but it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of training and forget the human element. Between the pandemic, social unrest and economic concerns, your employees are under a lot of stress right now. Many are dealing with their own fears and health concerns or worried about protecting their family. Some may even be the sole breadwinner in their household due to job loss or are serving as a caregiver to children and/or aging parents.

It’s a lot to handle, which is why it’s important to take employee mindset and social context into consideration when designing and deploying training. Remember that your employees are facing a lot of adversity right now. Use curricula and deployment methods that are sensitive to the human element to reassure your staff and help mitigate their stress.

7. Don’t Neglect the Rest of Your Training

Of course, COVID is top of mind right now, but be careful not to overlook other critical training initiatives, such as security procedures, conflict resolution, Department of Transportation compliance, and workplace conduct and anti-harassment training to keep your workers and your company protected. Cybersecurity training should also be a top priority; work-from-home employees are especially vulnerable to hacking, and we’ve already seen a huge spike in COVID-related cyberattacks.

Now is also a great time to help furloughed employees brush up on their training and keep their certifications current so they can hit the ground running when business picks up. A learning management system (LMS) can keep your company up to date on real-time needs and deliver required materials to employees wherever and whenever they need them.

As we adapt to COVID and look toward a post-COVID workplace, we need to think holistically about how we create, implement, track and communicate training. With face-to-face training off the table, companies must deploy virtual programs to keep their employees safe and their organization compliant. Implementing these strategies — along with the right tools for real-time training, human resources (HR) and regulatory compliance — can help your company adhere to changing regulations and keep your training program on track.