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OSHA Reiterates Requirement for Access to Qualified Trainers During Safety and Health Worker Training – Limitations on Computer-Based Training

For employers wishing to train employees using computer-based, online programs, OSHA recently reiterated that safety and health training must still include interactive and hands-on opportunities for employees. This may frustrate employers that rely on computer-based programs to deliver compliance initiatives, and employees accustomed to online options. While employers may use online programs to deliver training courses, employees must have timely access to a qualified trainer available for questions, such as in person or by telephone, during the online training.

On July 11, 2019, OSHA’s Acting Director of Enforcement Programs issued a letter of interpretation in response to the question of whether “online training programs [are] acceptable for compliance with OSHA’s working training requirements.” The interpretation restates previous OSHA interpretations that training must “result in mastery of the training material,” and that online training must be supplemented by interactive and physical components (such as putting on and removing personal protective equipment). OSHA explained:

The opportunity for workers to be able to ask questions of, and receive responses from, a qualified trainer(s), in a timely manner, is critical to effective training. Online training that does not provide workers with this opportunity would not comply with OSHA's worker training requirements. Training with no interaction, or delayed or limited interaction, between the trainer and trainee may halt or negatively affect a trainee's ability to understand and/or retain the training material. OSHA notes that one way for the employer to give workers this opportunity in the context of a computer-based program is to provide a telephone hotline so that workers will have direct access to a qualified trainer during the conduct of the online training.

Equally important is the provision of sufficient hands-on training because it allows an employee to interact with equipment and tools in the presence of a qualified trainer(s), allows the employee to learn or refresh their skills through experience, and allows the trainer to assess whether the trainees have mastered the proper techniques. Online training that does not provide workers with hands-on training would not comply with OSHA's worker training requirements …. OSHA emphasizes the importance of reviewing specific OSHA standards and related guidance to determine what OSHA requires in specific situations.

This interpretation is consistent with OSHA’s prior interpretations, including its November 22, 1994 letter of interpretation regarding Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response confirming that OSHA requires employees to have the opportunity to ask questions if training material is unclear or unfamiliar to them. Again in 2012, OSHA reiterated that online training would be insufficient to enable employees to learn first-aid and CPR skills, as required for numerous standards (including 29 C.F.R. §§ 1910.151 - medical services and first aid; 1910.146 - permit-required confined spaces; 1910.266 - logging operations; 1910.269 - electric power generation, transmission, and distribution; 1910.410 - qualifications of dive team; and 1926.950 - power transmission and distribution).

While the specific training requirements of OSHA standards vary, employers should carefully review their computer-based training programs in light of this renewed statement about the need for interactive and physical components and for trainees to be able to ask questions during the training.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 309

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Sarah A. Kettenmann Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Associate

Sarah uses her knowledge of environmental law and the physical sciences to help clients solve complex problems in a conservation-minded manner.

She maintains a diverse environmental practice, which includes litigation matters involving toxic torts and products liability and class action litigation concerning environmental and regulatory claims. Her regulatory practice includes advising clients on compliance with, and enforcement of, land use restrictions and remediation, and due diligence for waste facility permits under federal and state statutes. She also counsels clients on...

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Mark N. Duvall Chemicals Regulation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Mark has over two decades of experience working in-house at large chemical companies. 

His focus is product regulation at the federal, state, and international levels across a wide range of programs, and occupational safety and health.

He leads the firm’s Chemicals group. His experience under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) includes enforcement actions, counseling, rulemaking, advocacy, and legislative actions. Since the enactment of TSCA amendments in 2016, he has been heavily involved in advocacy, compliance activity, and litigation arising from EPA's implementation of these amendments. He also works with foreign counterparts to TSCA, including REACH and CEPA.

He is also a leader of the firm’s Occupational Safety and Health practice. He has extensive experience with OSHA and state OSHA inspections, enforcement litigation, compliance counseling, advocacy, and rulemaking. He has counseled clients on the EPA risk management program requirements under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act and state worker protection programs, and on inspections by the Chemical Safety and Health Investigation Board.

He has extensive experience with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, particularly with respect to regulation of antimicrobials, and with the Biocidal Products Directive in Europe.

He heads the firm’s FDA practice, having worked on FDA regulation of food and food additives, dietary supplements, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics, and European counterparts. He is knowledgeable about human testing requirements, having served as the Chair of an institutional review board for several years.

He has counseled clients on the regulation of consumer products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. He has reviewed hundreds of green marketing claims and counseled on federal, state, and international regulation of such claims.

He has worked on green chemistry issues at the federal and state levels, as well as a variety of voluntary programs that affect products. He has helped clients with the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Controlled Substances Act, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and other chemicals-related requirements.

He has advised clients and written and lectured on the regulation of the products of nanotechnology by FDA and by EPA under FIFRA and TSCA, and on related product stewardship issues.

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Jayni A. Lanham Environmental, Health, & Safety Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Baltimore, MD
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Jayni draws on her experience with environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regimes to help clients assess risk, develop compliance strategies, and build strong legal and technical cases when faced with litigation or enforcement.

Jayni counsels companies in a variety of industries on regulatory compliance and represents them in litigation and enforcement proceedings related to a broad range of federal and state EHS laws. Jayni is a leader of Beveridge & Diamond’s Occupational Safety and Health group and has significant experience advising clients on compliance...

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Heidi P. Knight Environmental, Health & Safety Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA
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Heidi counsels companies nationwide on federal and state environmental, health and safety (EHS) compliance, auditing, and due diligence. 

Heidi has significant experience advising clients across a range of industry sectors on federal and state EHS regulations. She applies her diverse expertise in EHS regulations to help companies comply with requirements in a practical manner, mindful of the companies’ objectives and costs.

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Heidi is a leader of the firm’s EHS Audits, Risk and Compliance Program...

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