Monday, November 28, 2011

Don’t Overlook OSHA’s “Unscheduled” Refresher Training Requirements

When I conduct mock-OSHA inspections for companies, we spend a lot of time focusing on their employee safety training efforts. What we typically find is that most employers provide a new employee safety orientation to get the newbies up to speed on the mandatory OSHA topics (and more). And most employers also schedule annual refresher training on topics mandated by OSHA. And the safety managers that have a more progressive safety program also remember to provide additional training when a new hazard/procedure/piece of equipment is introduced into the workplace. However, there is one other category of required OSHA training that get overlooked all too often; the “unscheduled” refresher training!

Did you know there are more than 80 individual OSHA general industry standards that specifically require the employer to provide “initial” training to affected employees? And out of those standards, approximately 35 also require refresher training, usually on an annual basis. However, there are also 10 or so of those OSHA standards that have one additional training requirement; they mandate re-training for an employee on applicable topics in any instance where that employee indicates (usually through his or her behavior) that they did not adequately grasp or retain the training that has already been provided.  Here are five examples of the kind of OSHA standards I am talking about:

* Personal Protective Equipment / 1910.132(f)(3) - When the employer has reason to believe that any affected employee who has already been trained does not have the understanding and skill required by paragraph (f)(2) of this section, the employer shall retrain each such employee . . .

* Respiratory Protection / 1910.134(k)(5) - Retraining shall be administered annually, and when the following situations occur:

(ii) Inadequacies in the employee's knowledge or use of the respirator indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill;

* Permit-required Confined Spaces / 1910.146(g)(2) -  Training shall be provided to each affected employee:

(iv) Whenever the employer has reason to believe either that there are deviations from the permit space entry procedures required by paragraph (d)(3) of this section or that there are inadequacies in the employee's knowledge or use of these procedures.

* Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout-Tagout) / 1910.147(c)(7)(iii)(B) - Additional retraining shall also be conducted whenever a periodic inspection under paragraph (c)(6) of this section reveals, or whenever the employer has reason to believe that there are deviations from or inadequacies in the employee's knowledge or use of the energy control procedures.

* Powered Industrial Trucks / 1910.178(l)(4)(ii) - Refresher training in relevant topics shall be provided to the operator when:

(A) - The operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner;

(B) - The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident;

(C) - The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely;

Complying with these additional “unscheduled” re-training requirements can be much more difficult to manage than new employee orientations and annual refreshers. In fact, the safety manager may not even be aware that an incident has occurred that triggers one of these additional refresher training requirements. But there are ways of helping you stay on top of this.  

Review your injury and illness reports (including near-miss reports), first aid logs, safety inspection records, and safety committee minutes often, with an eye towards detecting incidents that indicate an employee may have deviated from proper procedures, or that they did not fully understand (or perhaps forgot) the training they had previously received. It’s also helpful to educate all company managers and supervisors of the need to bring to the attention of the safety manager any incidents that indicate inadequacies in worker knowledge, and then ensure mandatory re-training is provided and documented.

I bring these examples up because the more savvy OSHA compliance officers will try and get a look at these records, and also interview employees and supervisors, in an effort to single out incidents that require the additional training. And then they will check your training records to see whether or not refresher training was conducted.

By the way, there are similar re-training requirements appearing in a few other OSHA general industry standards in addition to the ones I listed above, including:  1910.119, 1910.177, 1910.269, 1910.1043, and 1910.1052. There are several construction and maritime standards that contain such re-training requirements as well.

So keep an eye out for any clue that indicates that an employee’s previous safety training may not have been fully effective, and then provide (and document) the additional re-training needed to address the deficiencies. And take a minute to read my related blog post if you have a behavior-based safety program, as the critical behaviors you select for observation can be impacted by these standards as well.

While it takes some extra effort to stay in compliance with OSHA’s “unscheduled” training requirements, it may save you some headaches during your next OSHA inspection. More importantly, the payback can be life-saving.

Are you aware of another OSHA regulation that I did not list that specifies unscheduled re-training? Or perhaps you have a story to share about an incident that demonstrates how you became aware of the need to provide this extra training? If so, or if you have other related comments about this topic, please share your knowledge with others by entering it into 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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are OSHA Inspectors Pro Sports Fans?

Do OSHA inspectors ever watch pro football games on television? Do any of them ever take in a major league baseball game at a ballpark? My guess is no, based on the number of OSHA inspections conducted that involved teams from professional sports leagues.

To give you an idea of how many inspections have been conducted involving pro-sports teams, I ran searches on OSHA’s inspection search tool on their website (yes, I do have too much free time on my hands) to find inspection data as far back as 1972 for every pro football, basketball, and major-league baseball team located in the US (sorry hockey fans, but I don’t know any hockey team names, and aren’t they all located in Canada anyway?).  I don’t claim this is every inspection conducted within the group, just the ones that came up during my simple searches. Here is what I found:
  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Partial Inspection / Accident – 2010 (no citations issued)
  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Partial Inspection / Complaint – 2008 (no citations issued)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – Accident / Failure to report fatality within 24 hours (maintenance man slipped and fell, died much later) – 2007 (two citations, $5,375)
  • Denver Broncos - Partial Inspection / Planned inspection (emphasis on falls) – 2006 (no citations issued)
  • Dallas Cowboys – Partial inspection / Referral (related to structure collapse during storm) – 2009 (no citations issued)
  • New Orleans Saints – Partial inspection / Accident (electrical safety related work practices) – 2003 (one citation for $2,100)
  • Chicago Bears – Partial inspection / Complaint (aerial lift) – 2009 (one citation for $2,450)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Partial inspection / Referral – 2006 (one citation for $1,375)
  • New York Mets – Partial inspection / Complaint – 2004 (no citations issued)
  • Seattle Mariners – Partial Inspection / Non-program related – 2004 (one citation for $700)

Ten inspections. Only ten!  Since 1972!!!  And they are almost all related to a complaint or accident. And only four of these inspections netted a citation.  

I’ve researched this matter some on the internet, and have seen speculation that OSHA does not inspect pro teams because their players are not considered “employees”, but rather “independent contractors” under contract to the team (and therefore exempt from OSHA). But how well does that strategy work when a roofing contractor claims that he has hired “independent contractors” to work on a work-crew?  Not too well at all.  I’ve also seen statements suggesting that many workers at pro sports venues (like food vendors, maintenance, and security) may actually be employees of other companies that have contracted with the pro sports teams to perform work at the stadiums and ballparks, so if there is a violation involving one of these workers, the team would not get the citation. But even if that is the case, you've still got to think one of the teams would’ve been cited for at least one hazard under OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy.

Besides, there has to be plenty of other people actually employed by the teams that could be exposed to serious hazards.  Ever seen a trainer treating a player with a bloody nose on the sideline without wearing proper PPE?  Ever seen a member of the coaching staff observing or videotaping practice from the basket of an aerial lift without wearing a harness and lanyard attached to the boom or basket?  Bet you’ve seen a cheerleader or mascot live on national TV dancing and strutting along the unprotected edge of a platform or dugout while exposed to a 9-foot fall.  I’m just saying that if an OSHA compliance officer driving down the street ever saw a carpenter standing along the eve of a house with no fall protection, they’d probably pull right over and declare an imminent danger! But I guess cheerleaders and mascots don’t fall. Or, as I pondered before, maybe OSHA compliance officers don’t ever watch professional sports, so they don’t see these kinds of things.

Have you ever wondered about OSHA inspections at pro sports teams? Or maybe you know about an inspection that is not listed here? Or perhaps there is another highly-visible industry you feel is ignored by OSHA’s compliance officers. If so, or if you have other related comments about this topic, would you please share your experience with others 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 (unless they are a hockey fan).