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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.

© 2019 Beveridge & Diamond PC

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Sarah A. Kettenmann, Beveridge Diamond, general environmental litigation lawyer, regulatory practice attorney
Associate

Sarah Kettenmann maintains a general environmental litigation and regulatory practice. Prior to joining the Firm, Sarah served as a judicial clerk for Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers in the Supreme Court of Connecticut.

During her time at Pace Law School, Sarah  served as a judicial extern for Judge Laura Taylor Swain in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.), and  interned in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, S.D.N.Y., and in the King’s County District Attorney’s Office.  She also served as an...

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Mark Duvali, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond PC
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Mark Duvall has over two decades of experience working in-house at large chemical companies.  His focus at Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. has been on product regulation at the federal, state, and international levels across a wide range of programs, and occupational safety and health.  He co-chairs the Firm's Chemicals, Products, and Nanotechnology practice group. 

He heads the Firm’s Toxic and Harmful Substances/Toxic Substances Control Act practice.  His experience under TSCA includes enforcement actions, counseling, rulemaking, advocacy, and legislative actions.  He chairs the TSCA Dialogue Group, an informal group of companies that manufacture, import, distribute, and/or sell chemicals, and related trade associations, that address possible legislation to amend TSCA and alternatives to legislation.  He also works with foreign counterparts to TSCA, including REACH and CEPA.

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Jayni A. Lanham, Beveridge Diamond Law firm, Environmental Attorney
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Jayni Lanham maintains a general environmental, litigation, and regulatory practice.  Ms. Lanham represents clients in litigation arising under a broad range of federal and state environmental statutes, as well as state common law.  Ms. Lanham manages key aspects of litigation defense, including pre-trial motions practice, complex discovery, and the development of effective technical defenses.

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Heidi P. Knight, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm
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Ms. Knight focuses her practice on regulatory compliance, environmental transactions, and due diligence, with particular emphasis on the Clean Air Act and its state equivalents.  She regularly counsels coke producers, petroleum product manufacturers, chemical companies, automotive part manufacturers, and other industrial clients on air and other environmental and safety matters.

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