Training Centers: An OSHA Success Story

In December, OSHA announced, by one measure, an almost two-fold increase in the size of its training program. With the addition of eight more Training Institute Education Centers, there are now 20 locations offering courses in OSHA standards and occupational safety and health issues.

The program seems to have been a success from the very beginning. In 1992, a pilot program started with four schools teaching five different courses. Within four years, demand for the courses had grown so much the agency had at least one school operating in each of OSHA's 10 regions.

Ernest Thompson is chief of the division of training and educational programs at OSHA's Training Institute in Arlington Heights, Ill. He explained how the program works and why he thought it has been so successful.

"Of the 15 courses offered by the centers, the most popular courses by far are the two 'train the trainer' courses, one for general industry and another for construction," he said. The construction industry course is the more popular of the two, he added.

The four-day course is designed for those in the private sector interested in teaching the 10-hour construction safety and health outreach program to their employees or other interested parties. Thompson emphasized it is the private sector, not OSHA, that is driving demand for the 10-hour training offered by those who complete OSHA's four-day course.

"Many contractors are saying, 'You can't work on my site unless you have a 10-hour OSHA card,' proving the worker took the training," according to Thompson.

Larger companies often decide to have a staff member complete the OSHA course, so he or she can teach and certify employees, while smaller companies will hire a consultant.

Last year more than 250,000 cards were passed out to students who had taken 10-hour courses in construction or general industry.

Another reason the program is expanding is that assistant secretaries for OSHA like the fact that more and more people are being trained in safety and health at no cost to the agency. OSHA provides the curriculum to the training centers and the courses are essentially the same ones given to OSHA inspectors at the agency's own training institute in Illinois. But the training centers charge students full tuition, so the program costs OSHA nothing.

The program also seems to provide some positive public relations for OSHA.

"It's almost as if we were giving the course," said Thompson, summing up the program's advantages. "At no cost to the agency we are improving worker safety, and increasing our local visibility without enforcement."

More information on the location of OSHA's training centers and the courses offered can be found on the OSHA Web site: www.osha.gov/fso/ote/training/training_resources.html.

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