What is OSHA’s position on computer-based training?
Given all the technological advances in computer training, ISHN had to dig back to an OSHA letter of interpretation dated November 22, 1994 for an answer to the question, “What is OSHA's position on computer-based training programs for cognitive training?”
OSHA response: “In OSHA's view, self-paced, interactive computer-based training can serve as a valuable training tool in the context of an overall training program. However, use of computer-based training by itself would not be sufficient to meet the intent of most of OSHA's training requirements, in particular those of HAZWOPER. Our position on this matter is essentially the same as our policy on the use of training videos, since the two approaches have similar shortcomings. OSHA urges employers to be wary of relying solely on generic, "packaged" training programs in meeting their training requirements. For example, training under HAZWOPER includes site-specific elements and should also, to some degree, be tailored to workers' assigned duties.
“Safety and health training involves the presentation of technical material to audiences that typically have not had formal education in technical or scientific disciplines, such as in areas of chemistry or physiology. In an effective training program, it is critical that trainees have the opportunity to ask questions where material is unfamiliar to them. In a computer-based program, this requirements may be providing a telephone hotline so that trainees will have direct access to a qualified trainer.
“Equally important is the use of hands-on training and exercises to provide trainees with an opportunity to become familiar with equipment and safe practices in a non-hazardous setting. Many industrial operations, and in particular hazardous waste operations, can involve many complex and hazardous tasks. It is imperative that employees be able to perform such tasks safely. Traditional, hands-on training is the preferred method to ensure that workers are prepared to safely perform these tasks. The purpose of hands-on training, for example in the donning and doffing of personal protective equipment, is two-fold: first, to ensure that workers have an opportunity to learn by experience, and second, to assess whether workers have mastered the necessary skills. It is unlikely that sole reliance on a computer-based training program is likely to achieve these objectives.
“Thus, OSHA believes that computer-based training programs can be used as part of an effective safety and health training program to satisfy OSHA training requirements, provided that the program is supplemented by the opportunity for trainees to ask questions of a qualified trainer, and provides trainees with sufficient hands-on experience.”