OSHA has implemented more stringent guidelines and increased spontaneous monitoring visits to eliminate fraudulent trainers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
's (OSHA) Outreach Training Program
is a nationwide network of more than 16,000 independent trainers qualified to teach workers and employers about workplace hazards and to provide OSHA 10-hour course-completion cards, signifying an employee has received training in specific core elements of safety and health.
While this voluntary program has allowed OSHA to expand its training capacity, however, the number of trainers has also made it difficult to ensure that every one of them is in compliance with OSHA's training guidelines.
To address this issue, OSHA recently announced that it intends to strengthen the integrity
of the 36-year-old Outreach Training Program.
"The use of independent trainers has allowed OSHA to significantly extend its training capabilities, but OSHA will not tolerate fraudulent activity or unscrupulous trainers when workers' health and lives may be at stake," Jordan Barb, acting secretary of labor for OSHA, said in a statement
The rapid growth of the training program and certain city and state regulations requiring workers to earn an OSHA 10-hour safety course-completion card for employment has prompted fraudulent activity. Some trainers have not been providing the appropriate training in accordance with the program or were falsifying information.
From 2004 through 2008, 2.3 million workers have received outreach training, doubling the number of workers trained, according to OSHA
. In 2008, OSHA distributed almost 680,000 student cards and trainers held more than 43,000 classes, averaging 850 classes per week.
Because of some legislative requirements for workers to have 10-hour OSHA cards, 10-hour classes comprise more than 80 percent of the overall program. Construction outreach training is another highly sought-after training class, comprising 80 percent of outreach training. Although less popular, 30-hour construction safety training courses still tripled from 2005 to 2008.
On any day, 2,700 workers attend OSHA outreach training classes.
"Strengthening the integrity of the Outreach Training Program will help ensure that workers receive quality training, help them gain employment and return them home safely at the end of their workday," Barab said.
OSHA began implementing more stringent guidelines in 2008, requiring trainers to certify their classes and ensure the training documentation is in keeping with OSHA guidelines before they are given course completion cards to give to their students. OSHA also revised its trainer courses to include more rigorous exams for authorizing new trainers and added an ethics module to all trainer courses.
To become an authorized trainer, interested parties must complete a week-long course either in the construction industry, in general industry or both at the OSHA Training Institute or at any OSHA Training Institute Education Center, which has locations nationwide. Once authorized, trainers can train for four years and are required to take an update course before the end of the four years to renew their authorization. (For details on becoming a trainer, click HERE.)
Along with the 2008 changes, OSHA further revised its training program guidelines this year, adding extra mandatory hours for both the construction and general industry courses. Trainers must now maintain class files for five years and before teaching classes with 50 or more students, trainers must first obtain approval from the OSHA Education Center. (For a summary of the major changes made this year, click HERE.)
Additionally, OSHA has increased "unannounced monitoring visits to verify that trainers are in compliance with program requirements," the organization said in a statement
. Trainers caught falsifying information "will be subject to criminal prosecution."
The public is also asked to report fraudulent activity by calling 847-297-4810. A list of trainers who received disciplinary action will be posted on OSHA's Web site.
2009 OSHA Outreach Training Program Guidelines
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, February 2009
U.S. Labor Department's OSHA Strengthens Integrity of Outreach Training Program
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, May 20, 2009
2009 OSHA Outreach Training Program Guidelines: Summary of Significant Changes
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
How to Become an Authorized Trainer
Occupational Safety and Health Administration