Blended training may be just the thing for safety recertifications when we all go back to work

Estevan – And now for something completely different.

While Energy Safety Canada has extended expiries on most of its safety ticket until September, at some point life will return to normal post-COVID-19, and safety tickets will need to be renewed.

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To that end, this past spring I needed to do my three-year recertification of my safety tickets, Standard First Aid, H2S Alive and WHIMS. This time I’m doing them with Estevan’s Sawyer Safety, owned and operated by Dean Sawyer.

This will likely be the eighth time I’ve done first aid and seventh I’ve done H2S and WHMIS. To say it is old hat would be an understatement. But compared to long-timers who have worked in the oilpatch much longer than I have.

This is a first-person singular piece, about my experience taking this.

On this day, just as the COVID-19 issue was starting to turn into a crisis, Sawyer offered something totally new – a blended approach to recertifying both H2S Alive and standard first aid. I, and the other student taking it with me at the time, would be among the very first to I could do it from his terminals there, at Sawyer Safety, or from my office at home. I chose my office.

First up: H2S Alive

I couldn’t remember my username and password on the website, so I had to use the “Forgot Username?” function. This resulted in an email. But I has also forgotten my password, last used three years ago, so I had to use that function, too. Having access to my email on my main computer made this slightly easier, but my phone’s email would have worked too.

Once logged into the website, I went to training, course search, “H” for H2S Alive. There on the list was “H2S Alive Blended Renewal.” The “blended” part is key.

It was described as “Learn to work safely in and around hydrogen sulphide environments. Designed for workers with current H2S Alive certification that wish to renew through a blended learning model. Students are required to first successfully complete an online theory component and then successfully complete a skills assessment through an Authorized Training Provider (ATP).

Topics include H2S Properties; health hazards and locations; hazard assessment and control, respiratory protective equipment, detection of H2S and initial response strategy.

I don’t normally keep a webcam attached to my desktop, so I was a little surprised when I looked at the requirements to do this online. They included:

  • Government Issued Picture ID
  • Google Chrome
  • Web Camera (used only during the final exam)
  • Headphones or Speakers (optional)
  • Duration 3 Hours (does not have to be completed in one sitting)

Since nearly all laptops have a built-in webcam, it’s probably a better idea to do the final exam on a laptop. I grabbed a webcam I had lying about and plugged it in for this purpose.

The registration process asked me to fine the nearest ATP that offers assessment services. The list included Sawyer Safety Training and Consulting, so I was good to go. The list included 13 different providers in Saskatchewan between Carnduff, Coleville, Estevan, Kindersley, Lampman, Lloydminster, Oxbow, Regina, Saskatoon and Shaunavon. That number is actually 15, if you include the two in Lloydminster on the west side of the border markers.

Clicking “Register myself,” the cost was $79 plus tax of $3.95. It sent me an email with a link to the course, and I could access the course immediately from the site I was already on as soon as the payment was processed.

I had to refresh my page before the course showed up so I could access the course.

Click the next arrow in the upper right corner to continue.

Going through the course modules, my knowledge about some of the very particular numbers and symptoms from exposure was slightly rusty.

I probably could have used more sleep the previous night, so it was refreshing to be able to pause the program, get up, stretch my legs and make a strong coffee at my leisure. I realize breaks are common when doing this in class, but it’s a bonus to do it when you feel you need to.

The hazard assessment section had some fill in the blank questions, which is not something I expected. Most online training relies on multiple choice or true and false. However, you have to compare your own answers to theirs.

I was able to complete the entire course content in almost exactly two hours, not counting a break for coffee.

To do the exam, I had to install the Proctorio Chrome extension. While this is easy enough for me, I expect this could be a real headache for computers that are locked down and only allow software installations by a company’s information tech group. If you are in that sort of information technology environment, I would save the headache and just do all this at the training school instead of at home or the office.

The next stage was to start the quiz.

The following information will be collected during the duration of the exam:

  • Your webcam
  • Your physical location
  • Your identity
  • Your clipboard
  • Your mouse location
  • Your browser size
  • Your browser tabs and windows
  • Your head movements
  • Your eye movements
  • Your mouth movements
  • Any other applications running
  • Number of display screens connected

In the end, the most significant issue was my webcam. You are supposed to hold up your government issue i.d. so that it fills a certain area on the screen. However, to do that meant holding it about four inches (10 centimetres) from the camera. And that’s where the difficulty lies.

My webcam, which was relatively pricey when I bought it and was considered a top end model, simply would not focus at that range. There was nothing I could do, despite several attempts. Thus, the online examiner rejected my attempt at taking the course. So I told them I would photocopy my id at 200 per cent and hold it up to the camera, along with the original. With the photocopy, I was able to hold that up to the frame on the screen, and they were able to see it well enough to accept it.

I don’t know if that will work for other people, but it was basically the only issue of consequence I noticed. Again, I was one of the very first to take this blended program, so I expect bugs to be worked out in time.

The next day I did the in-class practical work, which included going over how to clean and use the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and how to extricate a person who has gone down.

This was subsequently followed by a practical test, which I passed. I’ve never had to actually use SCBA in the field, and have only used it in training like this every three years, but I’m slowly getting over the panic I get from the negative pressure test. I was printed my ticket and good to go.

Red Cross Standard First Aid

I’ve taken first aid training many times over, least six, maybe seven times before, but this was the first time I’ve taken the Red Cross version of standard first aid.

One thing I did find lacking in the online program was instructions on what to do for major chest wounds. Its answer was to first call EMS/911 and get an AED. Then “have the person rest in a comfortable position. If there is an open wound and it is bleeding profusely, apply direct pressure. If bleeding is light, do not apply pressure or a dressing. If you must apply a dressing, ensure it does not become saturated with blood, as saturation will prevent air from escaping and create pressure in the chest. If the dressing becomes saturated, it must be changed.”

Do I tape a plastic bag over it on three sides? This used to be something covered years ago in the classes I’ve taken. But the online version of Red Cross basically said call for emergency medical services and apply direct pressure. Did the treatment change, or is this a dumbing down of the training? I find that answer to be wholly unsatisfying, as this sort of thing has had detailed instructions before.

Perhaps that treatment, like the usage of cervical collars, has changed over the years. But I’ve found a progressive simplification of various first aid treatments over the last two decades from the training I’ve taken. For instance, in the childbirth segment, it talks about impending birth if the child is crowning, but doesn’t explain what that is, or dilation.

The online training had occasional videos, almost all less than 2 minutes in length. If for some reason your browser doesn’t want to work with the video, the tutorial provides a YouTube link as an alternative. That should be pretty much universal for everybody and every platform.

I’m not certain, but I think this was the first time I’ve seen mental health crisis come up as a first aid topic.

I failed the module on heat stroke and hypothermia and had to redo it. The following day, at Sawyer Safety we went over the practical portions of the course, including the usage of triangular bandages.

Overall the first aid training went well. For someone doing a recertification and who has taken it numerous times, it works. But I would strongly suggest it only be used for recertifications. Initial training should always be the full meal deal with hands-on instruction.

The training was wrapped up in early March, just days before numerous businesses were ordered locked down, social distancing became the norm, and various safety organizations extended their impending expiries for tickets that were due shortly. Eventually this will all come to an end, and there will be a mad rush to start catching up on the safety training that will have lapsed for several months.

To that end, blended training may turn out to be an efficient way to do it. It will allow many people to do their recertifications at the office or home, which, as we slowly come out of an era of the “social distancing economy” as Premier Scott Moe put it in late March, this may be an option. Sawyer, himself, said he is willing to work with companies to meet their needs. That may include working with smaller groups, bringing them in for the final in-person tests as needed.



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