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The OSHA Certification Myth: How to Monitor Worker Documentation

Saying a construction worker is “OSHA certified” is a bit of a misnomer.


Sure, “OSHA certified” can be used as a catch-all for a variety of safety and health certifications, but this common designation is actually not all that descriptive. Given the myriad certifications within the construction industry — only some of which are actually administered by OSHA — “OSHA certified” is a little overly-broad.

It would be nice if everyone on-site had the same clearance, and a simple OSHA stamp of approval guaranteed adequate training for any project task. But, in reality, there are many, many, different certifications within the construction industry — each with their own, discrete, professional purpose.

Does that seem a little complicated? Well, it is, and it’s someone’s job to keep track of it all.

What do we mean when we say “OSHA certified?” Let’s explore the true nature of OSHA training to better understand employee certification, and why getting clear on worker documentation is crucial to jobsite compliance.


What is the OSHA Outreach Program?

When people say “OSHA certified,” they may actually be talking about the OSHA Outreach Program, which doesn’t actually offer any official certifications.

The OSHA Outreach Program is a voluntary training course that is designed to provide foundational information about jobsite health and safety.

According to the course description, “The OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces in the construction industry.”

Workers have the option to take the OSHA 10 (10 contact hours) or OSHA 30 (30 contact hours) classes. The 10-hour class offers an overview of common jobsite hazards, while the 30-hour class is more detailed and geared toward supervisors.

While some states require the OSHA Outreach Program for employment, these courses are not certifications and do not meet the requirements of any OSHA standard.  So why bother taking them?

These programs offer crucial — albeit foundational— safety, health and compliance training. They should be used as a stepping stone to more specialized training or OSHA certifications.


What does it even mean to be “OSHA certified?”

OSHA offers their own set of certifications under the OSHA Training Institute (OTI). OTI is a network of non-profit organizations accredited by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training. In order to receive training, employees visit an authorized education center, attend a course taught by a trained instructor, and subsequently receive a certification.

Educational topics range from basic certifications in Public Sector Safety and Health Fundamentals to more specialized topics such as Hazardous Materials Management, Fire Service, Oil and Gas Safety, etc. Time commitment for these certifications range from 10 to 400 contact hours.

For those looking for abbreviated lessons, which are specific to particular professional areas, OTI offers OSHA Short Courses. These offer quick, job-specific training for those that are unable to attend multi-day courses. Some examples of short course subject areas include:

  • Accident Investigation
  • Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control
  • Confined Space Standard
  • Construction Noise
  • Ergonomics Guidelines for Health Care Facilities
  • Evacuation and Emergency Planning
  • Excavation Hazards
  • Fall Hazard Awareness for Construction
  • And many more​


How to monitor employee documentation

Employers must ensure that all construction workers are adequately trained on OSHA standards regardless of their certification level. It’s the law. But, standard training is only half the battle.

Employers must also ensure that anyone performing any number of specialized tasks, entering a restricted zone, or operating equipment covered under Subpart CC has the proper certification to do so.

Naturally, this is a lot of information for any one person to monitor. The shuffle of day-to-day jobsite operation, mixed with the inconsistency of visiting contractors, makes monitoring worker documentation a difficult task. This leads to OSHA violations.

The solution? Fully-integrated labor management technology. With this technology, you can upload worker documentation to a centralized app, access it remotely, and control labor coordination accordingly.

This technology allows you to monitor worker skills, certifications, and documentation to keep them safe and your job site OSHA compliant. This way you can overcome the “OSHA compliant” myth and better monitor worker documentation.


About the Author

Satyan Shah is the Director of IoT Solutions at Trimble Navigation, where he delivers enterprise-grade products and services with P&L responsibility. In addition to creating web applications at scale and offering hands-on engineering management of complex technical products, in 2016, Satyan architected and brought to market a next generation sensor platform using BLE, mobile apps, and LPWAN Networks.

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