As construction continues to rebound, the demand for employees who have the proper safety training will continue to increase. As you consider the options for training, it’s important to understand what is available, what is required, and what credentials to look for in prospective trainers.

There are many standards from OSHA that explicitly require employers to train employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. This includes things like ladder safety, scaffold safety, and hazard communication. Any company that has employees using ladders or scaffolds must provide training to their employees in the safe use of these systems. Likewise, any company that uses hazardous chemicals must develop and implement a hazard communication program and train their employees in the safe use and handling of these chemicals.

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 term “designated” personnel means a person selected or assigned by an employer as being qualified to perform specific duties.

Mandatory training

These requirements reflect OSHA’s belief that training is an essential part of every employer’s safety and health program for protecting workers from injuries and illnesses. The length and complexity of OSHA standards makes it difficult to find all the references to training. So to help employers, safety and health professionals, training directors, and others with a need to know, OSHA’s training-related requirements have been excerpted and collected in a booklet titled “Training Requirements in OSHA Standards,” OSHA publication 2254.

An employer is required by law to provide the mandatory training to their employees before the workers will be exposed to the hazard. Anyone that the employer chooses can conduct this required training as long as that trainer possesses the knowledge and skills needed to properly train others. In other words, this training can be done in-house, it can be done by a consultant, or workers can be sent to a class. The method of training chosen should be based on an employer’s capabilities and the complexity of the topic or hazard.

It is reasonable, for example, for an employer to set up a ladder training program that will be conducted by its foremen for all new crew members. This training may be done on a jobsite during the work shift and may be short in duration as long as it covers the specific conditions and equipment that will be used. As the safety topics become more complex, for example, confined spaces or fall protection, many employers will turn to a consultant, a training class, or other outside resources.

The resources used by a company to provide safety training depend largely on that company’s internal resources and capabilities. The training must be conducted by someone who is both knowledgeable in the subject matter and capable of teaching in an effective manner. It is critical to remember that the training must be provided before an employee will be exposed to a hazard, and it is advisable to document the training and keep records. This will help you answer the first question that an accident investigator will ask: “Was the injured employee trained to do the job?” Don’t leave yourself in the position of not knowing the answer.

A high-hazard industry

Construction is considered a high-hazard industry. Every project site is unique in the working conditions and hazards it presents. Each site has a collection of different subcontractors performing multiple trades. Often these trades are all working closely to one another. This presents a unique challenge to the industry to keep its workers safe.

Employer-mandated training covers hazards specific to a worker’s trade and the tasks he will be performing. But what about all of the other hazards that could be encountered on a construction site? A formwork company may not provide training to its carpenters in the use of welding and cutting equipment because they don’t use these tools, but the carpenters may be working right next to the ironworkers who do. Situations like this, and the constant exposure to potential and ever-changing hazards, are why many in the construction industry choose to use a general hazard-recognition training program, such as the 10- and 30-hour OSHA Outreach Training Programs.

These programs provide general hazard awareness training for construction, as opposed to the more specific site or company training that is required by OSHA. While the 10- and 30-hour Outreach Training programs are not required by OSHA, they help an employer fulfill its obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace by teaching workers how to recognize hazards that may occur around them at construction sites, and what to do to abate or avoid these hazards.

Some project sites require that every person working on the site have an OSHA 10-hour training card. That simply means that the site’s controlling entity, such as the GC or construction manager, has decided to require this training as a condition of being permitted on the site. This is becoming more common as general contractors and construction managers realize the value of the training and a safe project site. There are also some states that have implemented laws mandating 10- or 30-hour OSHA Outreach Training for the construction industry. These include Nevada, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, and Missouri.