This article was originally posted at some time between 2015 and September, 2020. It is being re-posted now as part of our website reconstruction. Some of the dates mentioned in this article may reference the time period from which it was originally posted.
In the past few months, I’ve written several blog entries about the big changes in MN OSHA’s rules on Right to Know and Hazard Communication training.
As I speak to more and more organizations about the changes and I ask them to tell me about their current training policies, the same issues keep coming up again and again.
- You’re failing to address Global Harmonization System (GHS) information in your safety training. The phase-in period for GHS is now complete and 100% compliance with all facets of the rule is mandatory. Here in MN, the requirement to incorporate GHS into existing safety training actually took effect a few years ago now, so if you’re not covering GHS hazard classifications, labels and Safety Data Sheet formats, then you are not in compliance with the regulation, and you are quite likely to be cited by OSHA if you have an inspection. Remember, the implementation of the GHS system was the whole reason for MN OSHA’s partial repeal of right to know.
- Your Hazard Communication or Right to Know training isn’t hazard-specific. This is far and away the most common safety training issue I’ve seen in my 25 years. There are very few employers who are going to the proper extent with their right to know and hazard communication training. Both of these regulations require that your training not only include information on general concepts like chemical labels, Safety Data Sheets, etc. You MUST also include information about specific hazards of the chemicals or classes of chemicals, harmful physical agents (heat, noise, radiation), or infectious agents to which employees are routinely exposed, or in forseeable emergencies. For instance, if your employees are exposed to Carbon Monoxide, perhaps as a result of a forklift being used in the area, your training must include information on CO. If your employees operate woodworking equipment, they must be trained on wood dust, and so on. Remember, there is no need to train employees on every single chemical in the building, just the ones to which they are routinely exposed, or to which they could be exposed in foreseeable emergencies. Don’t forget there are numerous types of chemicals that are exempt, so don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Your right to know or hazard communication training is too brief. Like most OSHA regulations, the hazard communication and right to know standards do not specify how long the training should be. The regulation only mandates what must be covered, and the employer needs to determine how best to communicate that information to employees and in what level of detail. However, if your new employee right to know or hazard communication training is taking less than 45 minutes or so, chances are you’re missing something.
- You’re not adequately documenting your training. This is the one that always shocks me. Companies spend countless hours designing and conducting training and then don’t bother to document it, or they document in such an abbreviated way that the records are meaningless. All OSHA safety training records should include the following information; the names/job titles of those who successfully completed the training, the date of the training (don’t forget the year), the name of the trainer, and maybe even his/her qualifications, and most importantly, an outline or summary of the information presented. If you like to provide a “pre” or “post” test, be sure to document the fact that employees passed the test, or maybe even document their scores. If you’re documenting the fact that you’ve provided a test, I also recommend documenting that any incorrect answers were reviewed with the students. For a few different reasons that I won’t get into, I do not recommend using your actual powerpoint for documenting training. It’s better to use a brief outline.
- You’re providing training in a language that some/most/all of your employee don’t understand. I was in a facility a few months ago where employees spoke five different languages…FIVE! Hazard Communication and Right to Know standards both require that the safety training be provided to employees in a manner which is understandable to them. If employees don’t comprehend English, you must use an alternative approach, such as an interpreter.
- You’re not providing training at correct time/intervals. In MN, right to know and hazard communication training must be provided PRIOR to allowing employees to work where exposure might occur, and at least annually thereafter. Retraining must also be provided when hazards or conditions change. Yes, I know, it’s difficult to do, but both regulations are clear on this.