With construction workers three times more likely to be involved in an on-the-job injury or fatality than most other industries, electrical contractors should appreciate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) goal to protect workers. Unfortunately, too often they focus on the regulations that OSHA creates and enforces. More attention should be paid to its efforts to provide resources that assist employers in improving workplace safety, especially training. OSHA recognizes that “Safety starts with training,” and its Outreach Training Program stands out among those efforts.
The voluntary program was started in 1971 to make workers aware of job hazards, promote workplace safety and health and inform workers of their rights. Outreach training comes in the form of a 10-hour course and a 30-hour course. There are general industry and construction industry courses for each. Basically, the content includes hazard recognition and avoidance, workers’ rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint. While certain topics are mandatory, courses can be tailored from a list of OSHA-recommended topics.
The Electrical Transmission and Distribution (ET&D) Partnership, of which the National Electrical Contractors Association is a member, was able to develop and get approval from OSHA for its own Electrical Construction Industry Outreach training course. This nontraditional course is tailored to employees involved with the construction and maintenance of power transmission and distribution systems. Topics include Introduction to OSHA, Electrical Safety, Safe Grounding Practices, Personal Protective Equipment, Job Briefings, Confined and Enclosed Spaces, Lifting and Rigging, Excavations and Fall Protection for the Electrical Industry. While the focus is on current OSHA 1910 and 1926 standards for the industry, it discusses accepted best practices established by ET&D. The partnership also developed a nontraditional Supervisory Leadership Skills Outreach Training course for supervisors that manage a company’s safety and health program.
When workers complete outreach training, they are issued an official Department of Labor OSHA card. Those completing the ET&D courses receive a card stamped by the partnership. At a minimum, all workers should take OSHA’s 10-hour training course, which is recommended for every construction industry employee. OSHA’s 30-hour course is recommended for all construction workers with a supervisory role.
All courses must be administered by an authorized OSHA Train-the-Trainer. To become a trainer, individuals must meet certain requirements. For a construction Train-the-Trainer, these include: Five years of construction safety experience, professional certification or a combination of experience and a degree in safety; completion of the OSHA course 510, Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry and Completion of OSHA course 500, Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for Construction. Train-the-Trainer courses must be administered by an OSHA Training Institute Education Center. To teach the ET&D course, one must become an authorized Train-the Trainer and then complete the ET&D Train-the-Trainer.
Authorized trainers and courses can be found on OSHA’s website (bit.ly/2HHKqV8). They offer a search of classroom instructors and approved online providers. OSHA has trainers that offer online courses in an effort to make them more accessible. All topics covered in the electronic courses are the same as if they were presented in a physical classroom.
Certain states have required OSHA outreach courses for specific workers: Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Each state with such requirements has varying thresholds and nuisances, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them. For states without a legal requirement, OSHA-authorized training and a Department of Labor card is good way to prove that efforts have been made to inform workers of hazards.
Despite the fact that some states, jurisdictions and employers deem outreach training a requirement, OSHA still considers it voluntary. Additionally, just because an employee completed outreach training, it doesn’t mean that all OSHA requirements are met. Each employer is required to provide additional training on job-specific hazards. This may include combination of construction, general industry and job-site training. Every work site will have its own unique hazards and training requirements. Still, OSHA Outreach programs are a great way to create a basic foundation of knowledge on job hazards, safety and standard compliance.
For more information, visit osha.gov.