OSHA talks tough on bad trainers

Barab says agency 'will not tolerate' fraud

By Marvin Greene

OSHA on May 20 announced a crackdown on fraudulent trainers in an effort to ensure the integrity of the agency’s Outreach Training Program, which recently has come under attack in multiple press reports. “Some trainers have fraudulently not provided the appropriate training in accordance with the program,” the agency said in the announcement. Jordan Barab, acting OSHA administrator, said the agency “will not tolerate fraudulent activity or unscrupulous trainers when workers’ health and lives may be at stake.”

The training issue surfaced publicly in February when an undercover reporter from the New York Daily News wrote a series of reports after attending what was supposed to be a 10-hour training session. Instead, the course – held at a bar in the Bronx – lasted only two hours and 15 minutes, and some attendees drank beer during breaks, the newspaper reported. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg condemned the training and urged OSHA to take immediate steps to fix the problem.

In other instances, trainers allegedly have sold fake course completion cards to construction contractors. A June 12 blog posting on the Facebook page of the Southeastern OSHA Training Institute Education Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh – an authorized participant of the OSHA Outreach Training Program – said some trainers in North Carolina reported being approached by employers seeking to “buy” 10-hour OSHA cards.

Approximately 16,000 independent trainers teach workers and employers in construction, maritime and general industry about workplace safety and health hazards – providing attendees with OSHA 10-Hour or 30-Hour course completion cards. Trainers receive certification to teach these courses after completing a one-week OSHA trainer course through an OTI Education Center or a training organization contracted with the agency.

Many states and municipalities require OSHA 10-hour training as a condition of employment. As a result, the course cards have become a highly desired employment credential, which observers believe has contributed to illicit training activities. To help combat the problem, OSHA said it would increase its number of unannounced monitoring visits to training sites to verify trainers are in compliance – and would report any fraudulent activity to the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General for possible criminal prosecution. The agency also has set up an outreach fraud hotline for the public to report alleged fraud and abuse. In addition, OSHA in August launched a “Watch List” with the names of trainers whose authorizations were revoked or suspended for failure to comply with program guidelines. OSHA said the list will be updated weekly.

Wendy Laing, program manager at the North Carolina State center, believes reports of fraudulent training are not reflective of the greater training industry. She also believes most employers recognize training provides values that reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as workers’ compensation costs. The recent move by municipalities to require training as a condition of employment may be fueling some of the illegal activity, Laing said.

Ron Bruce, vice president, content operations with ClickSafety.com, a Web-based safety and health training organization in Alamo, CA, is a CSP who formerly worked as a risk manager in heavy construction. He said the outreach training industry is watching the developments closely.

“The activities that have happened in New York – and I don’t doubt they have gone on elsewhere as well – are absolutely deplorable and, in my opinion, criminal as well. Those people should be prosecuted. Unfortunately, things like that get all the publicity and give the industry a bad name,” Bruce said. “I am really happy to hear OSHA has taken this position and wants to crack down on it.”

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