Jesse Brazzell, CHST
Manager, Safety Services
Safety Management Group
Most people are savvy enough to realize that everything they see on the Internet isn’t quite true. Whether it’s an email warning you about deadly spiders lurking in airport restrooms, a pop-up that promises a new car if you click on it, or a message from a unknown worldly attorney asking you to handle a few million dollars for a couple days, you read it, chuckle a bit, and move on.
But there’s something else on the Internet that isn’t always what it purports to be. It’s an issue that’s closely related to your organization’s safety standards and practices. Even more important, it could have a significant effect on your contracts and the way you manage jobsites.
Many owners and contractors expect some or all of the construction workers on their sites to have completed OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training, and to have earned the cards that provide evidence of that training. Often, contractors are expected to meet those criteria as part of their contracts with the owners they serve. That’s pretty straightforward.
What is less clear is whether the vendor who provides that training can legally give participants the official certification card from the Department of Labor (DOL). That’s particularly true when it comes to online OSHA 10 and 30 Hour programs. The simple fact is that very few online 10-hour programs meet the standards OSHA has established. In fact, at this writing, only seven companies nationwide are authorized to offer online training that results in the issuance of a DOL card for OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training — and only a couple of those companies are offering programs.
Faced with a growing number of concerns about the quality of online training programs, OSHA decided to take a deep breath and review this process. The agency developed tighter standards and expectations for online programs and met with companies that wanted to continue offering them under its Outreach Training Program. Following those meetings and review of the course content, OSHA designated some of those vendors as “authorized training providers.” Workers who participate in online courses offered by those providers qualify for the official DOL card. In addition, authorized training providers must offer the courses directly through their own websites, so they can no longer function as resellers.
However, if you Google “online OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training,” you’ll be greeted with a long list of companies that claim to offer such programs. They may provide training — but most of those programs are not being offered by authorized training providers. In other words, a worker who completes one of those courses will not receive that official card from the Department of Labor.
The names of the courses can be misleading, but that’s not illegal. After all, there are no restrictions stating that only authorized training providers can call their courses “OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training.” Anyone can use that phrase, regardless of the content, the delivery, and/or the quality. But only authorized training providers can offer the DOL card.
Some of those online vendors offer their own cards to prove completion of the class, and some of the cards look a whole lot like the real thing from DOL. But they’re not. They’re the safety certification equivalent of a Rolex watch that someone sells you out of his trunk. That watch may keep time, but it sure wasn’t assembled by Swiss craftsmen. Other unauthorized training vendors have made arrangements with local universities to allow participants to receive continuing education credits (CEUs). That’s not a bad thing, but it still doesn’t make the vendor an authorized training provider in OSHA’s eyes.
Having reviewed many websites of unauthorized training vendors, I can tell you that most choose not to call attention to the fact that workers who complete their training won’t receive the official DOL card. In fact, I saw only one that was candid enough to state that participants in its program will not receive the card.
While I believe that in-person classes are the most effective approach for delivering the material covered in OSHA’s 10 and 30 hour training requirements, I recognize that there’s a place for online classes. Contractors will use the online option when their regular safety training vendor doesn’t have a current class, or when they need to certify new hires in a hurry. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s important for safety-conscious owners and contractors to fully understand the situation and verify that the online courses they choose legitimately meet OSHA’s standards.
If you’re an owner that requires OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training for its subcontractors working on your projects, you may want to review your contract specifications to ensure that they call for workers to have earned the official DOL card. If you instead use vague language stating only that personnel must have OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training, contractors may interpret that to mean that their employees can receive that training from any vendor. In other words, if your expectation is that the people on the site should be certified by the Department of Labor, you need to make that very clear.
If you’re a contractor who expects your employees to have that DOL card, or if you’re required to meet those standards for an owner you serve, you need to verify that those employees are receiving their OSHA 10 and 30 Hour training from an authorized training provider.
And if you’re a worker who believes that it’s important that your safety certification meet the standards that OSHA has established for your protection, look beyond the course’s name. Make sure that the training is from an authorized training provider, and that the card you’ll receive upon its completion is the official DOL card.
You may not think that it’s a big deal, or you may simply base your decision about online training based on which company has the best-looking website. If that’s the case, I’d like to offer a little friendly advice: you may also want to steer clear of unknown worldly attorneys.