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OSHA’s Focus on Four Critical Areas

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If you’re in the construction field, you may be familiar with OSHA’s Focus Four efforts. It’s become a training module that plays a key role in both 10- and 30-hour training programs for construction safety, alerting workers in the industry to the most common hazards they face and the steps their employers are supposed to take to protect them.

Despite workplace safety efforts, construction remains one of America’s most dangerous occupations. In one recent year, nearly one in five workplace-injury deaths occurred on construction sites, representing the most fatalities in any industry sector. That’s why about 60 percent of OSHA’s inspections target construction sites.

The Focus Four program concentrates on four of the biggest hazards workers encounter on construction sites. It addresses fall hazards, situations in which workers may be caught in or between materials and equipment, hazards involving being struck by vehicles or equipment, and electrocution.

Within a 10-hour course, OSHA expects instructors to devote at least four hours to these four hazard areas, and at least 75 minutes to fall hazards, which represent the single biggest cause of construction site fatalities. In a 30-hour course, at least six hours of instructional time must be devoted to the four hazards. OSHA has produced instructors’ guides, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and handouts to support delivery of this material.

Authorized trainers have the option to use their own supplemental materials to support the delivery of the required content. They can also edit the PowerPoint presentations if needed to address the specific needs of the work being performed or the environment at their jobsites. OSHA’s guides also include extensive notes that trainers can use to provide additional relevant information or to help them answer questions raised by the workers.

One of the most important requirements to make the Focus Four program effective is the use of participatory training principles. By drawing upon the experiences of both trainer and participants, the messages being delivered become more relevant and meaningful to the workers being trained. At the same time, it encourages engagement, teamwork, and collaboration to find solutions. As workers share their own examples, they educate each other and recognize their responsibility to look out for those around them.

Another key advantage of the participatory approach is its effectiveness with workers who may have difficulty comprehending written materials (about 14 percent of American adults are unable to read). In addition to developing a better understanding of the subject matter, workers who struggle with reading will be less intimidated by this approach, making them more likely to retain what’s being discussed. At the same time, participatory training gives the trainer instant feedback into the workers’ level of understanding.

Finally, OSHA’s Focus Four materials provide a standard set of review questions that a trainer can use to evaluate the worker’s command of the subject matter. Trainers are also free to develop their own review questions, which can provide the opportunity to tailor the lessons to real-world situations from the particular workplace. That makes the training that much more meaningful and memorable, enhancing the likelihood that workers will remember it as they go about their daily tasks.