By Janet L. Keyes, CIH and Carol A. Keyes, CSP
You only hire qualified people, right? And once you hire them, they never need training, right? Of course not. You know people need to maintain their skills and learn new ones to stay competitive. They also need training to stay safe.
The training required by OSHA is the bare minimum of what’s needed. But many shops don’t even hit that floor. That’s why lack of training consistently ranks as some of OSHA’s most frequently cited standards.
What’s the minimum required training?
Right to Know/Hazard Communication
You need to train employees on the chemical and physical hazards to which they are exposed. You need to provide them with enough training so they understand warning labels (do they know what the label pictograms mean?) and know how to get more information about those hazards. The training has to cover the hazards with which they work. That makes sense – if your painters know that they need to be careful with clear coats because the isocyanates in them can cause asthma, you might be spared a lifelong disability claim from isocyanate-induced asthma.
Because products change and people forget, refresher training on this is required each year.
If employees are required to wear respirators, you must provide them with annual training and respirator fit testing. If employees don’t know how to maintain their respirators or if they use them incorrectly, the respirators are of no value.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Employees need to know what PPE is required and how to take care of it. That includes protective gloves, safety glasses, and hearing protection. You don’t have to repeat this each year, but occasional refreshers are a good idea.
If employees are exposed to a time-weighted average of 85 decibels, they need training on the hazards of noise and how to protect themselves. (You also need to offer annual hearing tests.) This annually-required training can be included with Right to Know/Hazard Communication training or may be provided by the company that does hearing tests.
Fire extinguisher use
You can tell employees to get out if there’s a fire or you can give them training each year on when and how to use a fire extinguisher. That can be a simple five-minute briefing or could be a live burn, with each employee getting a chance to extinguish the flames.
You can’t assume employees would know what to do if the shop bursts into flames or someone is injured. If they need to evacuate, do they know where to meet so you can account for everyone? Training on emergencies is required. You aren’t required to repeat it each year, but you want to make sure it’s kept up to date.
A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR)
Automotive repair shops need to have AWAIR programs, outlining safety responsibilities and how hazards will be identified and controlled. That has to be communicated to employees, but it doesn’t have to be via formal classroom training.
Overwhelmed yet? That’s not all. If employees do any welding or work with flammable liquids, they need training on safe work practices. If you have a forklift, users must be trained and tested to show they can operate it safely. They need training on “control of hazardous energy,” if something could start up or fall down or otherwise release energy when worked on. They need to know how to use electricity safely.
Are you thinking you need to spend so much time training that employees will never be able to get anything done? It’s not that bad.
Start off by looking at what trade school or continuing education training employees are getting now. Did they take an I-CAR welding course? If so, they probably have had training in safe welding practices.
Once a year, when you have a staff meeting, take five minutes to review what to do in case of emergencies. At another staff meeting, take another five minutes to review when and how to use fire extinguishers. You don’t know how to use them? Do an internet search. Sites such as www.fire-extinguisher101.com do a very good job of explaining extinguisher use. Or check with your local fire department.
Once you’ve developed your AWAIR program, go over it with employees. That should take fifteen, twenty minutes. Have people sign a roster, so you have a record that you communicated the program to them.
Right to Know and respirator training require some expertise to provide. Videos may be available from OSHA or from the local safety council. Your suppliers may be able to provide help with respirator training and fit testing. Or you can hire a safety and health consultant to help with those. That won’t be free (but I-CAR training isn’t free, either).
You want a safe workplace. Having people injured and equipment damaged costs you money and time. It isn’t fair to employees – and it can be costly to you – to assume they know everything about how to work safely. Invest in training. It will pay off.
This article originally appeared in AASP News (January 2021). It is intended to provide general information (no advice) about current safety topics. To discuss your specific concerns and how CHESS may help, please contact CHESS at 651-481-9787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.