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7 ways mobile technology can be used for in-field safety training

Updated: Mar 8

Rapidly advancing mobile technology is opening up big opportunities for in-the-field safety training. Here are 7 ways in which smartphones and tablets can be used to enhance the training function:

1. Checklists Paper checklists can easily be converted to digital formats, enabling equipment operators and other employees to walk through work procedures, pre-operation walkarounds and other business processes to be handled electronically. For pre-use walkarounds, the cameras and virtual keyboards of these devices can be used to capture images and descriptions of machine components that may have cracks, leaks or other out-of-the-ordinary conditions that should be reported to your company's maintenance people. Electronic checklist forms from Devtra, for example, help fleet owners to standardize inspections and can be customized to meet your needs.

2. Reference guides The large storage capacities of today's mobile devices makes them a natural method for keeping reference materials only a single tap away. Large documents can be searched in seconds, providing workers in the field with key information they need to do their jobs. Here are several examples that safety professionals may find to be useful in the field: NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards - The information in this helpful app includes chemical structures or formulas, identification codes, synonyms, exposure limits, chemical and physical properties, incompatibilities and reactivities, measurement methods, respirator selections, signs and symptoms of exposure, and procedures for emergency treatment. Crane Operator Hand Signals - Every signal included is OSHA Cranes and Derricks Standard compliant. Each signal is shown graphically so that operators can quickly and easily reference the appropriate signal for each command. ASSE Professional Safety Journal - Get any time, anywhere access to ASSE's comprehensive monthly journal on your Apple or Android mobile device.

3. Calculators NIOSH Lift Calculator - Humantech offers the LiftCalc app, which can perform the NIOSH Lift Equation whenever and wherever you need it. It is available for use in both metric and standard measurement. You can use this application at the job site to evaluate both existing and proposed lifting conditions to determine the Recommended Weight Limit (RWL) of a specific job or task. It can also help you prioritize hazardous jobs that require ergonomic intervention. Fall Distance Calculator - This app helps safety professionals in the field, protect workers from falls.  This easy to use app, helps to accurately calculate the required fall clearance based upon the equipment being used and the height of the anchorage point.

4. Assessment tools Today's mobile devices are not only excellent for content consumption, but also content creation, such as field assessments. Their cameras and virtual keyboards make it easy to document job site conditions and e-mail or transfer them to your PC for incorporation into your reports. Here are several apps that are designed to perform job site assessments: SafetyNet - The SafetyNet app allows customers to conduct inspections and collect workplace safety observations. It syncs these observations with the SafetyNet web application where advanced and predictive analytics are performed on the data. This sophisticated back-end technology helps safety managers identify where they are most likely to have a safety incident or injury, and then report and communicate that information to their work teams and management. Safety Snaps - With the Safety Snaps app, you can take a photo, add a description, select a priority and record your current location. You can share your Safety Snap by sending a Safety Snap email. This is a simple way to notify those responsible for fixing the problem or for you to keep a record of the problem. Apps are also available to perform OSHA 29 CFR 1910 and 29 CFR 1926 audits.

5. Procedures Some industries, such as mining, develop detailed safety procedures which employees must follow. They cover everything from start-up and shut-down of equipment to brake tests, working under different ground conditions and even the proper procedure for incident reporting. These documents are typically kept in 3-ring binders in paper form. But there's no reason why they couldn't be deployed electronically. That would make them much more portable and easier to access - since their full text could be searched far faster than the average worker could find the references they need.

6. Just-in-time courses Using today's technology, mobile devices can access brief, web-based training modules that would give them "refreshers" on basic machine tasks. By reviewing these materials just before performing a task, they are likely to do so at a higher level of proficiency, because they just "installed" that knowledge into their short-term memory. With highly portable tablets and smartphones, they could do this right in the cab of the machine, immediately before performing the task.

7. Contextualized learning Contextualized learning is the practice of providing help and advice to trainees during complex tasks - literally "just in time knowledge." It can be done on a machine or at a job site. But looked at in a more general sense, it's a mindset that can be incorporated into all aspects of training. In other words, you can incorporate "if-then" learning into computer- or web-based training that is delivered in a learning lab: Given a specific scenario, what is the correct action? If they don't answer correctly, the web-based training can provide them with additional information about the correct approach, or may loop them back to the point in the training program where that knowledge was covered.

This is just the tip of the iceberg As mobile devices and the apps that run on them continue to grow in speed and power, we can expect even more mobile training opportunities to open up. It's an exciting time to be involved in the field of training, isn't it?

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