Was certification enough to prove training was adequate?

by on August 7, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Safety Director Pat Kelly sank into a chair in the company’s panelled conference room to meet with OSHA compliance officer Jen Herbert.

An ammonia leak triggered OSHA’s inspection. It had caused 14 minor injuries and a daylong plant evacuation.

“We’re going to cite you for not adequately training your plant engineer in process-safety management of your ammonia-refrigeration system,” said Jen.

“We trained Bob,” said Pat. “We’ve got certifications indicating he received all the required PSM training for our anhydrous ammonia system.”

“I don’t doubt you trained Bob,” said Jen. “But I doubt Bob understood it.”

“He attended numerous sessions. His boss, our regional engineer, told me Bob had a good grasp of PSM,” said Pat. “Granted, Bob was unexpectedly promoted from assistant engineer …”

“Let me cut you off,” said Jen. “Forgive me, but … hogwash. Bob has no grasp of process-safety management. When I asked him what Management of Change was, he said that was when he was promoted to plant engineer. He had to look up ‘mechanical integrity’ in the manual when I mentioned it.”

May have frozen up
“I know he had trouble answering your PSM questions,” said Pat. “And …”

“I wasn’t done,” said Jen. “He couldn’t identify the danger of ammonia exposure. But the clincher is that virtually all the instructions he gave to the maintenance staff during the emergency response made the situation worse.”

“Look, after the fog of war, it’s easy to second guess,” said Pat. “The bottom line is Bob was trained and certified, had access to an expert, our regional engineer, to assist him, and probably froze up when you asked him questions.”

“I’m not that intimidating,” said Jen. “This was not one conversation. It was a series of discussions and a review of his post-accident report. It’s your duty under OSHA regs to verify that people understand their training.”

The company appealed. Did the OSHA Review Commission uphold the citation?

The Decision
No, the company lost and had to pay a $4,000 fine for a ‘serious” citation.

The OSHA Review Commission (OSHRC) said the company didn’t go far enough in its training: It failed to verify that Bob understood his training.

The requirements
Section 1910.119(g)(3) of the OSHA Act requires: “The employer shall ascertain that each employee involved in operating a process has received and understood the training …

“The employer shall prepare a record which contains the identity of the employee, the date of training, and the means used to verify that the employee understood the training.”

The company failed on the last part. While it conducted training for Bob, and Bob had discussions with the regional engineer about his PSM training for the refrigeration system, the company failed to do one thing: Test him.

“There was no showing that the plant engineer was tested, quizzed or demonstrated his level of understanding,” OSHRC noted. Bottom line: OSHA will want testing records, even for senior staff.

Cite: Sec’y of Labor v. Millard Refrigerated, No. 11-0717, OSHRC.

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