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Delivering Effective Safety Training: Going beyond OSHA’s requirements

By: Mark Stromme, Contributor

Safety professionals understand the importance of following OSHA’s training requirements. They know that training takes time and effort. But not just any training will do; it must be delivered in a way that overcomes seven common training hurdles. Only then will the worker understand and get what is needed from it.

Many of OSHA’s standards have specific training requirements. It’s important to meet these requirements, but remember, OSHA only describes the minimum training required. Many employers choose to go beyond the requirements to meet a higher standard — which includes meeting industry best practices and trends.

OSHA’s Requirements

Limit training sessions to 45-50 minutes per hour, with a 10–15-minute break before starting up again. © F8studio –

Staying just with the OSHA requirements, over 60 standards mention training. Determining if OSHA has a training requirement is the first step in analyzing training needs. In manufacturing, some of the most common training topics include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory protection
  • Emergency action plans
  • Lockout/tagout
  • Forklifts
  • Hazard communication
  • Fall protection

To complicate matters, while OSHA specifically outlines training requirements in many standards, some standards say to “inform” or “instruct” workers on something, but don’t use the word “train.” For example, the Machine Guarding standard doesn’t specifically mention training, but training is clearly useful and even necessary. Training workers to recognize pinch points, or how to spot a defective guard, is important. Another example is only designated personnel can operate an overhead crane, and the employer must determine if a worker can be “designated” — which sounds like training is certainly needed.

Training 101

Effective training starts with proper planning. Most trainers say they need up to eight hours of prep time for every hour of training. That includes research time, preparing written materials, gathering props, setting up the classroom and inviting the learners. Which means an 8-hour training program requires a lot of preparation work.

Keep in mind most people have relatively short attention spans, even for the most exciting content. It’s recommended to limit content to 45-50 minutes per hour, with a 10–15-minute break before starting up again. That way employees can have time to ask questions.

Remember, not everyone is comfortable asking questions in front of a crowd. A good trainer sticks around after the session to answer questions. That might require the trainer to leave a half-hour block of time for this after the training session.

Seven Training Hurdles

Trainers must understand the issues and frustrations that trainees encounter. Here’s a common list of hurdles that must be overcome:

  • Content isn’t relevant — Trainees must feel the training is important and applicable to them. Does the material provide what they need and relate to what they’re doing, or is it too general?
  • Material is outdated — Images and information used in training must be current. Photos from the 1990s and outdated slang or wording must be replaced. They’re a distraction and hard to take seriously.
  • Information is too technical — Not all trainees need the same level of detail. Know their reading ability, math skills if needed, and vocabulary level. It’s easy to get carried away with jargon or government-speak when talking about the OSHA standards.
  • Material isn’t in the trainees’ language — One common challenge is trainees who do not speak English, or who do not speak English as their first language. This is where an interpreter is needed or trainers (or training helpers) who speak the trainees’
  • Trainer isn’t qualified to teach the material — Some OSHA regulations require the trainer to have specific knowledge and experience. The powered industrial truck regulation says that training must be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training and experience to train operators and evaluate their competence. OSHA clarified that the instructor must have experience with the equipment (truck type) or attachment to provide training. The bloodborne pathogens standard says the trainer “shall be knowledgeable in the subject matter covered” as it relates to the workplace. OSHA clarified that the trainer need not be a health care professional, but if there are deficiencies in the quality of the training, OSHA may question the trainer’s background.
  • Material is boring/not interactive — To be effective, training should be interactive, requiring the trainees to answer questions, solve problems or get hands-on time using equipment. Just sitting and listening is a challenge for many people.
  • Material isn’t in the trainees’ preferred learning style — Some people learn best by seeing. Others need to hear the material. And many are hands-on learners who need to handle equipment to really understand a concept. Effective training incorporates all three learning styles.

Finally, determine if any trainees have special needs. Some workers may have a vision or hearing impairment that requires extra planning and awareness.


Understanding which of OSHA’s training requirements apply to a facility is often a challenge for safety professionals and is complicated by standards that say to “inform” or “instruct” workers on something.

And when it comes to the actual instruction and training, seven common training hurdles must be addressed to provide effective employee training. Only then will employees understand and get what is needed from it. WMHS

Mark Stromme is Senior EHS Editor with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., which addresses nearly 1,500 compliance topics with a diverse portfolio of solutions, including cloud management tools, customizable training programs, managed and consulting services, online and print compliance manuals and instructional publications. For details, visit

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