If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times! An employer will call and say “My supervisors all need their OSHA 30 certification”. Or, during an OSHA training class someone tells me “Our employees are all OSHA certified for fire extinguisher use” or “to operate a forklift” or whatever. But the plain truth of the matter is, OSHA does not, I repeat, does not “certify” anyone for anything!
I believe the confusion stems from two things. First of all, terms such as OSHA certification or OSHA certified are part of the jargon used in many trades as well as in the health and safety field, and it’s hard to get people to quit using these terms inappropriately. But I believe the primary cause of this misuse of the terms “OSHA certified” and “OSHA certification” is due to people misunderstanding what OSHA standards and policies actually say about “certifying” OSHA training.
OSHA Training Certification Requirements
There are numerous OSHA standards that require employers train their employees on specific topics applicable to their work, including but not limited to, confined space entry, fall protection and prevention, lockout/tagout procedures, and forklift operation. And in the section of OSHA rules that speak to documentation of employee training, many (but not all) of those standards say that employers must “certify” the training was conducted by preparing a written “certification” that includes the name of the student, the name of the trainer, and the date of the training, as well as identifies the subject covered during the training.
For example, here is the standard taken from the 1926 OSHA fall protection and prevention training standards for construction say about training certification:
1926.503(b)(1) – Certification of training. The employer shall verify compliance with paragraph (a) of this section by preparing a written certification record. The written certification record shall contain the name or other identity of the employee trained, the date(s) of the training, and the signature of the person who conducted the training or the signature of the employer.
So, as you can see, OSHA simply requires employers to document the training provided to their workers who are exposed to fall hazards in a specific format, which is referred to by OSHA as a training certification. The requirements for certification of fall protection training are the same regardless of whether the training was conducted in-house, by an outside trainer, or via an online fall protection training course.
OSHA 10 and 30-hour Certification
As for the OSHA 10 and 30-hour Outreach training courses for general industry and construction, students who successfully complete one of those courses receives a course completion wallet card issued through the US Department of Labor (DOL). But when you look at those wallet cards, nowhere does it state that the student is 10-hour certified or 30-hour certified, nor are the card referred to as an “OSHA certification”.
“The OSHA Outreach Training Program is NOT a certification program and must not be advertised as such. OSHA Outreach Program trainers, students, and curriculum are not certified. The trainer is authorized and students receive student course completion cards. Failure to comply (with these rules) may result in corrective actions, including revocation of authorized trainer status.”
Be aware that the same prohibitions apply to claims that online 10 & 30-hour courses are OSHA “certified”; the term OSHA uses is “authorized” online 10-hour and 30-hour training courses.
OSHA Approved Training / Trainers
On a related note, OSHA also states in their Outreach training policies that OSHA does not “approve” trainers, students, or classes. In fact, OSHA does not approve anyone to do anything. So, claims of being an “OSHA approved trainer” or a worker being “OSHA approved” because they were training to perform a specific task are not true.
So, the next time you hear someone tell you that they or their employees are “OSHA certified for 24-hour HazWoper training”, or that your employees will receive their “OSHA 10-hour certification” or “OSHA 30-hour certification” when they take a training class from their “OSHA-approved trainer”, be very wary. Perhaps they are just ignorant of the proper terminology to be used when discussing the certification of OSHA training. Or, they may be out to intentionally try and fool you into believing their OSHA training classes offers something that is absolutely does not.