OSHA Reaches Out

OSHA Training Institute Education Centers use innovative ways to deliver construction training, including short courses, workshops, online offerings, and even training in Costa Rica.

THE mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. All OSHA programs are designed to reduce fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, but the approaches differ depending on the circumstances and nature of the underlying cause of the problem. Direct interventions achieve the outcomes by engaging in one-to-one relationships with employers and employees.

At the same time, lasting solutions can be realized as employers, workers, and many others embrace a safety and health culture in the workplace. From OSHA's perspective, the resources devoted to realizing this goal have the potential to multiply the agency's effectiveness by instilling safety and health values among the broad population and enlisting these people in pursuing the same goals. Training is a key component in establishing a positive safety and health culture and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. The OSHA Office of Training and Education (OTE) develops, directs, oversees, manages, and ensures implementation of OSHA's national training and education policies and programs in support of OSHA's mission and strategic goals. OSHA's strategic goals are:

* Reduce occupational hazards through direct intervention.
* Promote a safety and health culture through compliance assistance, cooperative programs, and strong leadership.
* Maximize OSHA's effectiveness and efficiency by strengthening our capabilities and infrastructure.

The OSHA Outreach Training Program is OSHA's primary way to train workers in the basics of occupational safety and health. Through the program, individuals who complete a one-week OSHA trainer course are authorized to teach 10-hour or 30-hour courses in construction or general industry safety and health standards. Authorized trainers can receive OSHA course completion cards for their students. During the past four years, more than 1 million students have received training through this program.

OTI Education Centers
The OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center program was initiated as an extension of the OSHA Training Institute, which is the agency's primary training provider. OTI Education Centers are nonprofit organizations located in all regions. They offer courses to the public and private sector.

All OTI Education Centers offer Outreach Trainer and update courses and facilitate card distribution for the program. Additional Education Center course offerings address topics such as hazardous materials, machine guarding, ergonomics, confined space, excavation, electrical standards, and fall arrest systems. A limited number of these courses are available through the Education Centers in an online format. Many of the centers offer certificate or degree programs based on occupational safety and health curricula.

OTI Education Centers offer several one- and two-day training courses in subject areas such as safety and health management, accident investigation, recordkeeping, health hazard awareness, ergonomics, bloodborne pathogens, and machine guarding. These are being added to meet the needs of students who are unable to attend the full-week courses but would like to benefit from the OSHA training curriculum. To make the one-day courses even more convenient, the University of California San Diego Education Center is presenting a "Workshop Week" featuring a variety of one-and two-day seminars that can be combined to offer up to five full days of safety and health training for participants. This enables students to customize the training to meet their specific needs and provides flexibility of scheduling. The courses also offer credit for ABIH, BCSP, CEUs, and academic units with the university.

OTI Education Centers play a prominent role in curriculum development and offer subject matter expertise based on their organizational competencies. One recent example is the Disaster Site Worker Outreach Training Program. This program is for disaster site workers who provide skilled support services, (e.g., utility, demolition, debris removal, or heavy equipment operation) or site cleanup services in response to natural and man-made disasters. Multiple Education Centers played key roles in developing the curriculum and assisting in the implementation of the course.

The centers offer local training specialization in subject matter expertise, based upon regional industry needs. As a result, the community has greater availability and access to quality safety and health training at a local level. The Education Centers offer added value in their ability to provide customized corporate training solutions and accommodate requests for on-site training courses. They work closely with OSHA Regional and Area offices in meeting the needs of the regional constituency. OTI Education Centers support OSHA's training and education mission through a variety of safety and health programs including community outreach efforts, Spanish-language courses, and youth initiatives.

Aid for Hispanic Workers
While injury and illness rates in the private sector dropped by more than one-third in the decade between 1992 and 2001, the rates increased for Hispanic workers. OTI Education Centers have numerous training initiatives targeting Hispanic workers.

The National Safety Education Center at Northern Illinois University is partnering with OSHA to offer a Spanish-language version of OSHA's successful 10-hour general industry course. The course includes an introduction to OSHA; walking, working surfaces; means of egress and fire protection; electrical safety and personal protective equipment; machine safeguarding; lockout/tagout issues; introduction to industrial hygiene; bloodborne pathogens; and confined space hazards.

The TEEX Southwest OTI Education Center and OSHA developed the CareerSafe online program to provide a Web-based course for the purpose of teaching younger workers how to stay safe in the workplace and also to begin to prepare them for a safe and prosperous future in their chosen career. Since this unique online safety initiative was introduced in 2003, more than 11,000 students ages 16 to 24 have completed the course. By providing entry-level workers--particularly high school and college students--with fundamental safety knowledge needed in the workplace, this program brings the significance of safety to the forefront. Students completing all 10 course modules earn a wallet card demonstrating to employers they have a solid foundation in workplace safety and hazard recognition. CareerSafe students have the option of reading and hearing all course content in Spanish or English.

There are numerous examples of OTI Education Centers partnering with OSHA to promote safety and health training through their presence at conferences and seminars focusing on topics such as homeland security and ergonomics. The University of South Florida OTI Education Center in Tampa worked in conjunction with the Safety Florida Consultation Program and the OSHA area office in Fort Lauderdale to provide safety and health training for Hispanic and Creole workers. The training took place in conjunction with a Family Health and Safety Fair known as "Familiar De Salud y Seguridad" in June in Homestead, Fla. A second event will take place in August at the Osceola Heritage Part in Kissimmee, Fla. Both fairs are aimed at providing Hispanic and Creole workers in high-risk industries with basic awareness training in Spanish. This is the second year the USF OTI Education Center has participated in sponsoring the training.

The Rocky Mountain Education Center in Denver partnered with OSHA to present "SafetyFest of the West." The focus of the conference was to provide affordable job safety training to front-line workers and supervisors in Colorado's construction industry. Training sessions on construction safety and health topics were offered in both English and Spanish. They included mandatory and elective coursework through which participants earned the OSHA 10-hour construction card, a credential often sought by employers in the construction industry. "Cooperative efforts such as this in Colorado encourage businesses to develop and maintain effective safety and health programs," said Greg Baxter, OSHA's regional administrator in Denver. "They are a key element of compliance assistance efforts fostered by Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao."

OTI Education Centers are even advancing the cause of safety and health around the world. The University of Washington Education Center recently implemented the 10 Hour OSHA Construction Outreach Training Program in Costa Rica. Fifteen Costa Rican safety professionals successfully completed the OSHA #510 and #500 courses taught by OTI Education Center faculty in San Jose, Costa Rica. These authorized trainers have trained some 300 local Costa Rican workers in the 10-hour program, including an additional two hours of training specifically tailored to the Costa Rican workplace. (The 10-hour card is stamped on the back to indicate the participant has received the additional two hours of training.) Says Alfonso Navarro, project coordinator in Costa Rica and professor at the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, "The combination of OSHA know-how taught by qualified and well-trained native Costa Rican safety professionals serves our country well and is an excellent example of intra-America cooperation."

Exceeding Expectations
These types of programs are representative of the innovative approach OTI Education Centers have demonstrated in promoting occupational safety and health initiatives. They add value for businesses and play an integral role in furthering OSHA's training mission. From its modest beginning to a national network of training organizations offering a broad range of courses and subject matter expertise, the OTI Education Center program has clearly exceeded initial expectations.

Dr. Henry Payne, director of OSHA's Office of Training and Education, sees the Education Center program as a vital resource in supporting OSHA's training objectives. "The OTI Education Centers add great value in providing occupational safety and health training, and supporting our department's mission. This program extends our reach and enables OSHA to impact more people as it endeavors to promote safety, reduce injury and illness, and ultimately save lives."

This article appears in the July 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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