The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has introduced a mandatory workers’ rights component to its 10- and 30-hour training programs.
“Introduction to OSHA,” a two-hour module, is now required in every OSHA Outreach Training Program class. OSHA developed the information in support of the Secretary of Labor’s goal of strengthening the voice of workers, the agency said.
The change affects hundreds of thousands of workers who complete Outreach Training Program classes each year, as well as more than 50,000 authorized OSHA Outreach Trainers. The new material focuses on the importance of workers’ rights and advises workers of their right to:
• Safe and healthful workplaces;
• Know about the presence and effects of hazardous chemicals;
• Review information about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces;
• Receive training;
• Request/file for an OSHA inspection and participate in the inspection; and
• Be free from retaliation for exercising their safety and health rights.
“For too long, workers have avoided making claims of unsafe work conditions out of fear of losing their jobs,” said David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. “We are confident that this new training will embolden workers to speak up when they find work practices that endanger their lives and the lives of their co-workers.”
OSHA trainers will cover whistleblower rights and filing a complaint. They will also provide samples of a weekly fatality and catastrophe report, Material Data Safety Sheets, and the OSHA “Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.” Trainers may obtain test and answer sheets from their authorizing training organization.
OSHA Outreach Training is a voluntary program that seeks to teach workers about their rights and how to identify, reduce, avoid, and prevent job-related hazards. Nearly 755,000 workers were trained through the Outreach Training Program during FY 2009, and nearly two million workers have completed programs in the last three years.
OSHA recommends Outreach Training Program courses as an orientation to occupational safety and health for workers, an agency spokeswoman said. Some states have enacted laws mandating the training, and some employers, unions, organizations or other jurisdictions require it.
The program includes 10- and 30-hour courses in construction, general or maritime industry safety, and health hazard recognition and prevention.
In announcing the new module, OSHA noted that although participation in Outreach Training is voluntary, worksite training is not. Employers are additionally responsible to train their workers on specific hazards of their job, as noted in many OSHA standards, the spokeswoman said. A list of standards requiring training is found in OSHA Publication 2254, “Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines” (www.osha.gov/Publications/osha2254.pdf).