Thursday, March 1, 2012

OSHA Says They Don’t Kill Jobs; Here’s Proof To The Contrary

Dr. David Michaels, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), once famously defended his agency’s issuance of new OSHA safety regulations by stating: OSHA is not working to kill jobs; we're here to stop jobs from killing workers.”  However, unilateral decisions recently made by OSHA, a federal agency housed under the U.S. Department of Labor, seem to run counter to the job-killing portion of that philosophy, and it has nothing to do with the issuance of workplace safety regulations.

As you probably know, OSHA developed and has administered a very successful OSHA Outreach Training Program for several years, resulting in millions of workers receiving valuable training on OSHA regulations and hazard avoidance, much of it provided by self-employed individuals and gainfully employed OSHA-authorized Outreach trainers working for safety consulting firms. And for the last several years, these OSHA Outreach courses have been available for students to take online too. Love them or hate them, the online Outreach courses are here to stay, as OSHA recently announced the continued acceptance of these courses. However, OSHA suddenly decided to restrict how these online courses are made available to the general public.

OSHA has decided to no longer allow the online Outreach courses to be offered by “resellers” on their websites as of April 1st; the courses will only be allowed to be sold on the internet directly by those select few companies and organizations that OSHA recently approved as online providers. It has also been revealed that in a closed-door meeting, OSHA said they will restrict the use of the generic term “osha” in the URL of websites of firms selling online Outreach courses. Furthermore, OSHA said they will allow no safety consultant (nor anyone else for that matter) to make a profit by placing any button or ad that links back to an online course provider’s website.

When these new policies takes effect, the hundreds of safety consulting companies who have offered links to these courses on their websites for years and receive a commission will instantly be restrained from supplementing their income with online course sales. To many “mom and pop” consultants, this extra income is often the difference between staying in business and shutting their doors. So these policy changes will no doubt put a few of them out of business and their employees on the street. And the many workers employed as website developers, marketing reps, and sales and service agents for companies acting as resellers or advertisers for these courses will soon be getting pink slips too. Not exactly a job-friendly scenario.

There was no explanation given by OSHA for their sudden change of heart. I can only speculate that OSHA is possibly concerned about unethical marketing practices by some resellers (a big problem in the past that seems to have been all but wiped out). Or perhaps they do not have the resources to monitor the resellers. And as for the restriction of the URL’s, maybe OSHA thinks some poor soul could mistake a website with “osha” in the URL for the federal OSHA website. But these issues are easily addressed without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

OSHA could develop and publish mandatory policies for resellers on the OSHA website, just like they have done for the live Outreach trainers, and hold the resellers or course providers accountable for meeting the rules. Or they could turn the delivery and administration of the online Outreach Training course over to a self-funded, non-profit organization made up of the Online Outreach Training providers, similar to how the OTI’s run their Outreach programs in various areas of the country, and then hold them accountable for enforcing any necessary rules or guidelines.

As for the restriction on URL’s, take it from someone who once owned over 100 websites with “osha” appearing somewhere in the URL; I have received hundreds of calls and emails over the years from people looking for assistance because they could not locate the telephone number of their local OSHA Area Office on the federal OSHA website, but not once has someone called me thinking I was OSHA.  But if OSHA is truly concerned that a private website might be mistaken for their own, I’m sure the owners of those “offending” sites would be more than willing to place a disclaimer on their websites.

I would encourage the powers to be at OSHA to rethink their decisions, hold discussions in an open forum that incorporates input from affected individuals (just like when a proposed OSHA standard is issued), then work out solutions that preserve these jobs instead of throwing people out of work. And for all of you OSHA-authorized trainers who conduct live 10 and 30-hour training classes and are not affected by these changes to the online programs (and who may even loathe the online courses), you should be concerned too. For it could be just a matter of time before OSHA makes similar changes that affect your ability to market and offer live on-site Outreach classes directly to your customers.

In the interest of full disclosure; I used to be a major reseller of the online OSHA Outreach courses. But I sold off all my websites that offered online courses over a year ago, so I no longer make a profit from selling online OSHA Outreach courses. I do have links on one of my new websites to online Outreach courses offered through a buddy’s website, but I receive absolutely no compensation for any sales of their courses. Nor do I speak for the online training industry; my opinions are my own. And, no, I am not an OSHA-hater either; I actually have a general appreciation for many employees of the agency who perform what is often considered to be a thankless job.

But even though these changes do not affect me directly, I do feel compelled to act as an advocate for the many businesses and individuals that will see their livelihoods negatively affected by these unnecessary infringements on their ability to make a living.

In closing, I’d like to share a quote about the purpose of Government, attributed to the late, great President Ronald Reagan, which I read in an editorial written by Rep. Tim Walberg (R – MI), that recently appeared in the Washington Examiner:

"It is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather, to make it work-work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

Readers: If you agree with this philosophy, and feel these changes to the Outreach Training program are detrimental to the economic well-being of American workers and businesses, and/or that OSHA should focus on regulating workplace safety instead of the internet, contact Dr. Michaels [http://www.osha.gov/as/index.html] or his boss Hilda Solis [talktosolis@dol.gov], head of the U.S. Dept. of Labor (ironic, huh?), and let them know what you think. Better yet, share your concerns with your Senator, Congressman, or even President Obama [http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml], as they all profess to be focused on preserving jobs instead of eliminating them. And especially to you safety professionals who offer Outreach training courses (live or online), you’d better speak out now if you are at all concerned, because the job you save may eventually be your own.

If you would like to make a comment about this blog post, please do so in the “comments” section below. And please, pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.

20 comments:

  1. Once again what a well written blog to help inform everyone what's going on and how we can make our voices heard. One additional thing that I had heard was that this is to take effect March 31st, 2012!!!

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  2. I've on more than one occasion assisted a worker try and get their Outreach card because they didn't know who they got their training from and they weren't sure who to contact (reseller) and they had to prove they took the training for their job. When I would contact OSHA/DTE, they had would have no idea who gave the training as the reseller was not a recognized training provider as per OSHA. These changes will do away with this situation and the worker will know who gave them their training.

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    1. Anonymous - The resellers had to display the name and contact info for the online provider's authorized trainer, and the name of the online provider company as well. So if the student is not savvy enough to look to see who they took the course from, that is not the reseller'd fault. Besides, the OSHA changes to do away with resellers will not help with this problem. Besides, OSHA also has no idea who an authorized trainer is that taught an individual's live class if a student calls them. Using your logic, OSHA should also do away with all authorized trainers for live classes.

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  3. A great read, thank you!

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  4. Carol Giles, MPH, CIH, CSPMon Mar 05, 03:56:00 PM 2012

    I did not know OSHA even had such a re-selling arrangement.

    I am aware of several private training and consulting firms which clearly used OSHA's name in vain over the years--sending advertisements for their firm through the US mail with OSHA in large letters, attempting to scare the recipient into using their services. I was not impressed when I received them, and on several occasions let the sender know it was deceptive.

    If you own your own company, stand on your own name and reputation. Don't hide behind the federal government so closely that customers cannot readily tell who is who. I prefer the separation and name and reputation protection it appears OSHA is trying to do.

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  5. Couldn't agree more. I'd like to suggest also that if the issue is, in fact, due in part to OSHA's limited resources in monitoring the resellers, perhaps OSHA could somehow institue a small service fee requirement for resellers which would be used to pay the salaries of individuals responsible for the monitoring. I'm not sure that would be the best way of going aabout it exactly. But something along those lines shouldn't be too difficult. There has to be a way for everyone to win.

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  6. Not sure how we missed this before today as we are typically in the loop on these types of changes...this may have been OSHA intent. We are a reseller of clicksafetys program and were just informed today after having several issues with students currently not being able to complete their 10 & 30 hour courses online that we are no longer able to resell the 10 & 30 hour courses. They are just now calling resellers to inform them. In agreement with the article and comments above, this is a outrage! If anyone is aware of a petition or board established to contest this, CORE Safety Group will be happy to get involved. http://www.coresafety.com/contact.php

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  7. Thank you for the article! I cannot find a press release stating these new restrictions - can you help with a citation from OSHA?

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    1. There is no release, and that is part of the problem. This information is coming from people who attended the closed-soor meeting, but OSHA is not publishing anything, just making up the rules as they go along. Also some resellers are stating to get notification from the providers (see comment before yours).

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  8. Unfortunately, this policy by OSHA seems to fit much of the mindset from the current President and his administration. Private enterprise is being reigned-in or simply destroyed (see arbitrary closings of profitable, independent Chrysler dealerhips) wherever possible, and a government entity is inserted in its place.

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  9. I was able to get this out of OSHA:

    As stated in Federal Register Notice 76-17451-17459, Dated 3/29/2011, please see the following:

    http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=21998


    (a) Marketing and Recruitment. Explain the procedures for marketing the online training courses and recruiting trainees. Please note that authorized online Outreach Training Program providers may not engage in reselling their courses. They are expressly prohibited from offering, selling, or reselling their online training course from their individual Web sites through any other parties or Web sites, unless an exception is obtained in advance and in writing from OSHA. OSHA defines reselling as the use of business partners or Web sites other than that of the primary developer that act as "pass-through" links to the primary developer's Web site, allowing a student to purchase and access an online course; or any other marketing intermediaries, contractual distribution systems designed to distribute or promote services through a second party, or secondary-tiered provider.

    Talk about buried! That means this policy was out when they were first asking for submissions last year. Had I known that, I would have pushed for us to submit rather than try to find a vendor! Thanks again.

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  10. I attended my TTT 500 and 501 mid year last year and it was being discussed then. The information that we got here in Texas at the OTI was that it was beginning in June/July timeframe. Part of the issue, at least according to the OTI was there were a lot of on-line providers that were not complying with the most current standards and requirements for time and topics. I recently inquired as to how one would become authorized for OSHA on-line training. hHre is my conversation with the OHSA Outreach division.

    From: Uramkin, Diane - OSHA [mailto:Uramkin.Diane@dol.gov] On Behalf Of Outreach - OSHA
    Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 1:24 PM
    To: Brown, Don
    Subject: RE: On Line Outreach training Provider status

    OSHA recently announced an open competition to become an On-Line Training Provider. There was a new release on January 12 announcing the organizations that were accepted during this competition. OSHA is not anticipating conducting another open competition in the near future.

    Sincerely,

    Diane Uramkin, Program Analyst
    Construction Outreach Program
    OSHA, Directorate of Training and Education
    2020 S. Arlington Heights Road
    Arlington Heights, IL 60005-4102
    Phone: (847) 759-7780
    Fax: (847) 297-6636
    uramkin.diane @dol.gov
    See Current Outreach Requirements at:
    http://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/index.html

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  11. I have to say that, as an authorized Outreach Trainer (for the past seven years), the entire program is a joke.

    If I had to count on this government program to ensure that I would stay in business, then shame on me.

    I only stay authorized to provide 10- and 30-Hour Construction Courses to one of my bigger clients, a Fortune 100 Company who truly values good, effective, and interactive training.

    Out there beyond the work for this client, it is one lousy trainer outbidding another lousy trainer to provide horrible, boring, cheap, ineffective read-the-slides training so that some outfit can "get cards" for its employees while the employees snooze through the class.

    Not for me, thanks.

    And online training? Just a joke. In theory and in practice.

    But hey, another great way to "get a card."

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    1. Well said.
      - Const/Gen In Authorized Trainer

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  12. Online courses maybe just another way to "get a card" but for those serious about the passion of teaching safety awareness, it's a way to reach the masses and provide this training. It's unfortunate that when the private sector and the US government partner with each other, some type of corruption takes place. This appears to be the case here. OSHA has lost it's grip on the type of training offered by vitual universties. But it is my belief that OSHA made this bed and their way of correcting the problem of taking their giant government eraser and wiping out all retailers is wrong and without merit. It is obvious that "Online" course material was not mandated to be pre-approved prior to being offered to retailer. If OSHA would have put this practice in place with stronger monitoring guidelines long ago, we wouldn't be wiping the slate and starting over. I for one am in favor of a petiton to allow the resale of online courses.

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  13. Most of the outrage I read here is from people who can't make money by handing out cards for online courses anymore. Bravo OSHA!

    There are so many so-called consultants in this country who are only looking to make a fast buck in the name of safety that you can swing a stick without hitting one. (Yes, this an obvious exaggeration. Hopefully you get my point.) These people give those of us who are serious about saving lives through EFFECTIVE safety training a bad name.

    The federal government spends enough of my tax money frivolously. I don't want to foot the bill for what it would cost OSHA to have to police every company that wants to hand out OSHA cards. They did their part. If this is your livelihood, you should have known. Obviously somebody knew because they were able to select 12 companies from all of the ones that responded to the publication in the federal register. If you missed the announcement, thats your fault. Again, I don't want OSHA to spend my tax money to personally touch base with every person who has an interest in handing out OSHA cards.

    Online training is a joke in the first place. All it does is provide the employer with documentation that the training was done if OSHA shows up at their door. Online training is not effective and not nearly as valuable as a course taught in a classroom setting and facilitated by someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to providing quality training.

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    1. Bravo! Could not agree more.

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  14. Curtis, I really wanted to email you and thank you for what you do. I really enjoy reading what you put out in your blogs you have some of the most up to date information and you help me along the way when I read your blogs. I just wanted to take the time and say thank you for what you do. S.H.

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  15. any idea why the osha.gov website has been down for the last 2 days? April 30 and may 1, 2012

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    1. I was on the OSHA website yesterday and today and did not experience any trouble at all. Not sure what the issue was when you were trying.

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