Integrity Advocate co-founder Robert Day is a licensed investigator and paralegal.

Robert Day

Robert Day

Can you tell me what you do?

Day: I’m a co-founder of a company called Integrity Advocate, as well as a licensed paralegal and investigator. I co-developed the patented technology that Integrity Advocate is known for, which addresses legality and effectiveness concerns associated with the rise of online training that countless industries are using to bring the learning process into the digital age.

With more and more organizations looking to save time, cut costs and improve delivery, online training continues to grow in popularity – but so do the issues associated with it. One of the glaring problems facing the online training industry is how to effectively monitor courses when learners are no longer trained in person.

The necessity for this technology became very evident to me from my years in the oil and gas industry. I saw how commonly online training is used to mitigate serious health and safety risks without the employers knowing or being able to prove that the intended individuals received, were present for, or were even awake during the training – which has the potential to lead to preventable accidents and even deaths in the workplace.

How big of an issue has safety become for companies that rely on online training of employees?

Day: Corporate training is a booming $200-billion industry, with online training making up $56.2 billion of this total. Yet this thriving industry lacks the proper legislation and logical safeguards needed to prevent work-related accidents and deaths, and to ensure that employees have indeed been properly trained before they start working.

As such, the issue of safety when it comes to organizations that rely on online training could not be bigger. I can’t think of an industry, a business or a profession that doesn’t rely on online training as a method of managing the serious risks to their personnel and operations.

Some workers risk serious injury or death when they’re exposed to chemicals and contaminants (i.e. H2S, silica, benzene, asbestos, lead, etc.), and online training is used commonly as a method of control to ensure their safety and the safety of the workplace. Others risk serious injury or death every time they work with hazardous equipment (i.e. forklifts, heavy machinery, power tools, etc.) and, again, online training is a significantly used method of control to prevent those risks from becoming a reality.

Read our series on safety training and Digital Learning

The food and beverage industry points to yet another example of how important health and safety training is. With the risk for food contamination, outbreaks of food-borne illness and the potential to over-serve alcohol looming, properly completed training is an absolute necessity for all employees who are handling, processing, cooking or serving consumable products.

With nearly every industry continuing to rely more heavily on online training (i.e. oil and gas, medical, nuclear, food handling and construction, where the stakes are high when mistakes are made), having the ability to know if an employee has fully completed their training is more important than ever. With no trainer or educator in the room, who’s to say whether a trainee has completed an online course themselves or even completed it at all. There have been countless reports of spouses or coworkers completing online training on behalf of the intended trainee – and there’s no way to tell if a trainee is multitasking or even in the room.

Where does Alberta sit in comparison to other provinces when it comes work-related safety? 

Day: Not only is Alberta the third-highest province for work-related deaths, but it also faces great challenges when it comes to workplace health and safety due to the variety of high-risk industries, remote work locations, extreme weather conditions and transient workforce that the province is home to. This means that there are many workers who may regularly find themselves in high-risk situations that they have little familiarity with.

It is not surprising that the Alberta government’s own statistics show that young workers (15 to 24 years old), who have the least familiarity when it comes to workplace safety, are encountering more disabling injuries than any other age group. As a province, we need to ensure that the preventive efforts we undertake to address occupational risks are effective and are not simply a means of winning contracts, securing Workers’ Compensation Board rebates or achieving the appearance of regulatory compliance.

Due to the size of the province of Alberta, and our reliance on a highly mobile workforce, online training is used by nearly all employers as a method of cost-effectively preparing individuals to work safely around workplace hazards. If workers aren’t completing training themselves, if they’re receiving assistance with their training from others, or if they aren’t paying attention when receiving training, important information can be missed and mistakes and accidents quickly become more commonplace. Without the ability to effectively monitor participation and know that employees are ready to do their jobs safely and with the accuracy required, there’s room for risk to run rampant and key safety practices to be executed improperly or missed altogether.

With the door wide open for important, life-saving information to be so easily missed, it’s more important than ever that organizations and institutions take steps to ensure the safety of their workers by implementing solutions to ensure the validity of training processes. When the stakes are this high, the public relies on legislators and corporate training industry leaders to implement solutions that ensure training is being received by the intended individual.

What can be done?

 Day: It’s critical that organizations and institutions that implement online training make sure that solutions implemented to minimize occupational risks actually minimize those risks (rather than simply appearing to do so). 

For example, the risks related to chemical handling and exposure exist in most businesses, and because of the sheer number of people who have died from chemical-related risks, regulators mandate that all exposed workers must be trained in how to recognize hazards and limit their exposure. However, the only proof of certification that’s required by many employers is a database entry or piece of paper that proves only that the worker has been given access to the online training – they don’t require verification that the worker has actually participated in or successfully completed their training. This leaves the door open for workers to be under-educated or improperly trained, which can result in huge risks when it comes to workplace health and safety.

At Integrity Advocate, we believe that ensuring that students, employees and contractors receive and retain critical information during their online learning experience is a shared responsibility between all stakeholders. To address this important issue, we have developed technology that enables organizations who use online training to verify that the intended learners are participating as required. Through our biometric ID verification and artificial-intelligence-assisted participation monitoring, we’re able to assist countless industries in achieving these goals without sacrificing program integrity or infringing on learner privacy.

The Integrity Advocate technology has been developed with due diligence requirements in mind and is employed by institutions and businesses that understand the importance of identity verification and participation monitoring in online testing and training.

The Integrity Advocate software is active throughout the entirety of the training process and can tell if the correct person is taking the training (through facial recognition of the trainee that’s compared to a government-issued ID), if the trainee is awake or in the room, if another person is in the room or if the trainee is replaced by another person midway through the course. The application has both desktop and mobile capabilities and integrates seamlessly with existing training programs to ensure ease of use for the end user. We also use advanced privacy protocols to guarantee data security.

The Integrity Advocate solution has already been implemented by industry leaders like Suncor, PCL and Disney.

Why is there a trend to more corporate training being done online?

Day: One of the main reasons that more and more corporate training is being done online is that it saves organizations a lot of money as compared to instructor-led training. Online training removes the need for instructors and travel costs. It also saves time and there’s no need to schedule classrooms full of students when courses are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Additionally, online training offers numerous other benefits such as consistency, self-pacing, multi-language capabilities, on-demand scheduling, mobile competencies and the integration of multi-media.

Our reliance on online training is growing rapidly and is only going to continue. In fact, research indicates that the use of online training will not only continue to grow by 10 per cent each year, but that the online training market will exceed US$286 billion in the next four years. And with power like that, it’s even more imperative that we put solutions and safeguards in place now to protect the integrity of the training process and ultimately the lives of workers everywhere.

Interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

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