OSHA Training Improves Workplace Safety

By Jon Wollenhaupt

“Watch out!” Those two urgent words of caution usually come too late. Someone slips, trips, or falls at work. The accidents pile up and so do the costs associated with them. The numbers are startling. A report by the Department of Labor states that in 2015 there were 4,364 workers killed on the job and 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuriesand illnesses occurred.

The costs incurred by employers from workplace injuries and illness are enormous. Government statistics estimate that U.S. employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs that include workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services. Indirect costs include training replacement employees, accident investigation, implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

What is especially troubling is that most workplace accidents are preventable. According to major U.S. insurance companies, the Top 10 Preventable Workplace Incidentsare the following:

  • Overexertion injuries(related to pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying, and throwing activities at work)
  • Slipping/tripping
  • Falling from heights
  • Reaction Injuries(that is, those caused by slipping and tripping without falling)
  • Injuriescaused by falling objects
  • Injuries caused by walking into things(when an employee accidentally runs into an object such as a wall, door, cabinet, glass window, table, chair, etc.)
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Machine entanglement
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • On-the-job violent acts

Considering the number of workplace injuries and their associated costs, it’s hard to believe that before 1970 there were no provisions for protection against workplace safety and health hazards. It was not until December of 1970, as a response to the public outcry against rising injury and death rates on the job, that President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation that created the Occupational Safety and Health Act, commonly known as OSHA.

How effective has OSHA been in reducing workplace injury and illness?In the four decades since OSHA was signed into law, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped by more than 60%.

How does a California employer obtain OSHA-authorized training to combat workplace injuries? One solution is to engage with a community college that offers authorized OSHA training. Since 2008, the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, located in Dublin, California, has been the site of one of the top-rated OSHA training institutes in the country, consistently ranking in the top five of all 27 colleges and universities currently authorized to deliver OSHA workplace safety training.

To find out more about the OSHA training programs offered in the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, I recently spoke with Cari Elofson, Assistant Director, OSHA Training Programs.

UpSkill California: What OSHA training programs do you offer in the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District?

Cari Elofson: We provide training in the four major areas of OSHA focus, including construction; maritime; general industry, which covers everything land-based except construction; and disaster-site worker, which is focused on the training requirements of those who work in a disaster or emergency response role.

Through contract education, we can customize the curriculum for a client when they want to provide training that goes beyond OSHA requirements. This type of customization often involves industry-specific, hands-on training that is delivered on-site at the company. For example, we might do safety training for a specific type of equipment a company uses.

UpSkill California: Are OSHA training classes offered through open enrollment?

Cari Elofson: Yes. We offer OSHA courses through open enrollment, which is cost effective for companies that want to send one or two people. But if it is not practical for a company to send their employees to our campus for a four-day training session, we can deliver the courses on-site at their facilities.

UpSkill California: Who are some of your OSHA training clients?

Cari Elofson: Starbucks, for one.We recently delivered fall prevention training at one of their coffee-roasting facilities. At that facility, many of the employees work at heights. We were teaching their safety people how to roll out a fall protection and fall arrest program. The goal is to have their safety staff monitor and train their own employees. We also work a lot with PG&E. They’ve been a client of ours since I started working here two years ago. We’ve also been working very closely with Tesla. We’ve trained a lot of their people to deliver their safety programs. Additionally, we have partnerships with many of the different unions and contractor associations. We train their people on a regular basis to be able to deliver the OSHA training programs themselves.

UpSkill California: What are the career prospects for students interested in becoming a safety professional?

Cari Elofson: Most of our students who are pursuing the Occupational Safety and Health Program Associate of Science (AS) degree are working professionals. They’re working either in the field, or they are retired and are looking for a second career, or they’re brand new to the field and need to have some very specific training and education in the field of safety. The prospects for students preparing to become safety professionals are very good right now; projected job growth is estimated at 8% to 14% over the next six years.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of safety-related, career-track programs for kids coming out of high school. I am hoping that will change. There is a big push right now to encourage and support kids who are not on track to get a four-year degree to enter the trades. The community colleges enable people who need to work to get an affordable education while they’re employed. We’re here to support those students who are not going on to university, the ones that are on a different career track.

Examples of OSHA 10-to 30-Hour Training Programs

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. The program also provides information regarding workers’ rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint.

Through this program, workers can attend 10-hour or 30-hour classes delivered by OSHA-authorized trainers. The 10-hour class is intended to provide workers with awareness of common job-related safety and health hazards, while the 30-hour class is more appropriate for supervisors or workers with some safety responsibility. Through this training, OSHA helps to ensure that workers are more knowledgeable about workplace hazards and their rights, and continue to contribute to our nation’s productivity.

About the OSHA Training Center in the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District

The OSHA Training Center in the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District offers high-quality Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards-based training for construction, maritime and general industry in Dublin, California, conveniently located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Programs offered include OSHA safety standards, Outreach Trainer courses, Cal/OSHA standards, and customized on-site safety training.

Cari Elofson
Assistant Director
OSHA Training Programs
Email: celofson@clpccd.org

For more information about OSHA training programs delivered in your region of California, please contact:

Margaret Schmidt 
Project Manager, Contract Education, Technical Assistance Provider
Email: margarets@maxinet.com

About the Author
Jon Wollenhaupt is a marketing consultant who writes about topics related to contract education, employee training, and corporate learning for the California Community Colleges. His work is funded by the Technical Assistant Provider (TAP) grant that is hosted at Mt. San Antonio College. He can be reached via email at: jon@golaunchmarketing.com