April 30, 2001
OSHA Training Guidelines
By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP
Training is an essential part of
every employer's safety and health program for protecting
workers from injuries and illnesses. Many researchers conclude
that those who are new on the job have a higher rate of accidents
and injuries than more experienced workers. If lack of knowledge
of specific job hazards and of proper work practices is even
partly to blame for this higher injury rate, then training
will help to provide a solution.
It is highly recommended that the
employer keep a record of all safety and health training.
Records can provide evidence of the employer's good faith
and compliance with OSHA standards. Documentation can also
supply an answer to one of the first questions an accident
investigator will ask: "Was the injured employee trained
to do the job?"
Training in the proper performance
of a job is time and money well spent, and the employer might
regard it as an investment rather than an expense. An effective
program of safety and health training for workers can result
in fewer injuries and illnesses, better morale, and lower
insurance premiums, among other benefits.
Many OSHA standards specifically
require the employer to train employees in the safety and
health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it
the employer's responsibility to limit certain job assignments
to employees who are "certified," "competent,"
or "qualified"-meaning that they have had special
previous training, in or out of the workplace.
The Occupational Safety and Health
Act of 1970 does not address specifically the responsibility
of employers to provide health and safety information and
instruction to employees, although Section 5(a)(2) does require
that each employer " . . . shall comply with occupational
safety and health standards promulgated under this Act."
However, more than 100 of the Act's current standards do contain
Therefore, OSHA has developed voluntary
training guidelines to assist employers in providing the safety
and health information and instruction needed for their employees
to work at minimal risk to themselves, to fellow employees,
and to the public.
The following is a summary of the
OSHA Training Guidelines. A complete copy can be obtained
from the OSHA web site at www.osha.gov
or through the link at the end of this article.
- OSHA's training guidelines follow a model that consists
- Determining if Training is Needed
- Identifying Training Needs
- Identifying Goals and Objectives
- Developing Learning Activities
- Conducting the Training
- Evaluating Program Effectiveness
- Improving the Program
The model is designed to be one
that even the owner of a business with very few employees
can use without having to hire a professional trainer or purchase
expensive training materials. Using this model, employers
or supervisors can develop and administer safety and health
training programs that address problems specific to their
own business, fulfill the learning needs of their own employees,
and strengthen the overall safety and health program of the
Determining If Training
The first step in the training
process is a basic one to determine whether a problem can
be solved by training. Whenever employees are not performing
their jobs properly, it is often assumed that training will
bring them up to standard. However, it is possible that other
actions (such as hazard abatement or the implementation of
engineering controls) would enable employees to perform their
Ideally, safety and health training
should be provided before problems or accidents occur. This
training would cover both general safety and health rules
and work procedures, and would be repeated if an accident
or near-miss incident occurred.
Problems that can be addressed
effectively by training include those that arise from lack
of knowledge of a work process, unfamiliarity with equipment,
or incorrect execution of a task. Training is less effective
(but still can be used) for problems arising from an employee's
lack of motivation or lack of attention to the job. Whatever
its purpose, training is most effective when designed in relation
to the goals of the employer's total safety and health program.
Identifying Training Needs
If the problem is one that can
be solved, in whole or in part, by training, then the next
step is to determine what training is needed. For this, it
is necessary to identify what the employee is expected to
do and in what ways, if any, the employee's performance is
deficient. This information can be obtained by conducting
a job analysis which pinpoints what an employee needs to know
in order to perform a job.
If an employer's learning needs
can be met by revising an existing training program rather
than developing a new one, or if the employer already has
some knowledge of the process or system to be used, appropriate
training content can be developed.
The company's accident and injury
records can help identify how accidents occur and what can
be done to prevent them from recurring. This is good information
to jump start a training program. Observing employees at
their workstation while they are performing their job tasks
is another useful tool in identifying training needs. Ask
the employees questions about their job and what they consider
to be "at risk" acitivities and then focus on those
issues when developing your training programs.
Identifying Goals and Objectives
Once the employees' training needs
have been identified, employers can then prepare objectives
for the training. For an objective to be effective it should
identify as precisely as possible what the individuals will
do to demonstrate that they have learned, or that the objective
has been reached. They should also describe the important
conditions under which the individual will demonstrate competence
and define what constitutes acceptable performance.
For example, rather than using
the statement: "The employee will understand how to use
a respirator" as an instructional objective, it would
be better to say: "The employee will be able to describe
how a respirator works and when it should be used."
Developing Learning Activities
Once employers have stated precisely
what the objectives for the training program are, then learning
activities can be identified and described. Learning activities
enable employees to demonstrate that they have acquired the
desired skills and knowledge. To ensure that employees transfer
the skills or knowledge from the learning activity to the
job, the learning situation should simulate the actual job
as closely as possible.
The determination of methods and
materials for the learning activity can be as varied as the
employer's imagination and available resources will allow.
The employer may want to use charts, diagrams, manuals, slides,
films, videotapes, or simply blackboard and chalk, or any
combination of these and other instructional aids. Whatever
the method of instruction, the learning activities should
be developed in such a way that the employees can clearly
demonstrate that they have acquired the desired skills or
Conducting the Training
With the completion of the steps
outlined above, the employer is ready to begin conducting
the training. To the extent possible, the training should
be presented so that its organization and meaning are clear
to the employees.
An effective training program allows
employees to participate in the training process and to practice
their skills or knowledge. This will help to ensure that
they are learning the required knowledge or skills and permit
correction if necessary. Employees can become involved in
the training process by participating in discussions, asking
questions, contributing their knowledge and expertise, learning
through hands-on experiences, and through role-playing exercises.
Evaluating Program Effectiveness
To make sure that the training
program is accomplishing its goals, an evaluation of the training
can be valuable. Training should have, as one of its critical
components, a method of measuring the effectiveness of the
training. Evaluation will help employers or supervisors determine
the amount of learning achieved and whether an employee's
performance has improved on the job.
The ultimate success of a training
program may be changes throughout the workplace that result
in reduced injury or accident rates. However the evaluation
is conducted the results can give employers the information
necessary to decide whether or not the employees achieved
the desired results, and whether the training session should
be offered again at some future date.
Improving the Program
If, after evaluation, it is clear
that the training did not give the employees the level of
knowledge and skill that was expected, then it may be necessary
to revise the training program or provide periodic retraining.
In summary, information is readily
available to help employers identify which employees should
receive safety and health information, education and training,
and who should receive it before others. Employers can request
assistance in obtaining information by contacting such organizations
as OSHA Area Offices, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, OSHA-approved
State programs, State onsite consultation programs, the OSHA
Office of Training and Education, or local safety councils.
Copyright © 2001 by WorkCare™
All Rights Reserved
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