OSHA Certification: How to Become OSHA Certified
If you're job hunting in construction, manufacturing, warehousing, or another high-risk industry, chances are you've been told you should get "OSHA Certified." It sounds daunting and official. What is OSHA certification? Where do you get it? How long will it take and how much will it set you back? All the answers you need can be found below.
What is OSHA Certification?This is the most confusing part. Officially, "OSHA Certification" doesn't have any real meaning. It's often used to refer to a certain kind of safety training, but context matters. You should ask for specifics when you're in doubt about the required credential.
What Do Employers Mean When They Say "OSHA Certified"?Among construction and manufacturing employers, the phrases "OSHA Certification" or "OSHA Certified" almost always means they want you to have an up-to-date certificate of completion for OSHA Outreach Training. Other shorthand for OSHA Outreach Training includes "OSHA 10," "OSHA 30," or a Department of Labor ("DOL") card. OSHA has very clearly stated that Outreach Training isn't certification. In fact, training providers can get in big trouble for using the words "certified" or "certification" to describe themselves or their Outreach courses. Even though OSHA disapproves, employers continue to use the term and look for OSHA Outreach on your resume under Certifications. There's nothing wrong or dishonest about listing your training there, but to avoid any confusion, use the full name of the training you received. You can find it on your certificate of completion.
Does Real OSHA Certification Exist?There is no one program that counts as OSHA Certification, but OSHA's website does have a list of recognized Occupational Safety and Health certificate programs. Most of these are for professionals whose entire job is focused on occupational safety, like safety officers and safety trainers. The certificate programs recognized by OSHA require between 100 and 400 hours to complete. Compare that to OSHA Outreach Training, which only takes 10 or 30 hours and focuses on teaching regular workers about safety measures that apply to them. For the rest of this article, we're going to focus on the informal meaning of "OSHA Certification," since most people who search that term are looking for information on OSHA Outreach Training. To learn more about "real" occupational safety certificate programs, follow the link to OSHA's site, above.
How Do I Become OSHA Certified?There are a few things to understand before you commit to a particular OSHA Outreach course.
Where Do I Go to Get OSHA Certified?OSHA doesn't actually offer what employers call "OSHA Certification" directly. Instead, OSHA's Outreach Training Institute "trains the trainers" and authorizes private institutions to provide OSHA courses. You can find a list of OSHA-accepted training providers on their website. Some offer online courses as we do. Others offer classroom experience instead. Always make sure your course provider is legitimate and that their authorization is current – there are fraudulent companies out there eager to take your money. Some used to be OSHA-accepted but had their credentials suspended or revoked. Others were never authorized in the first place. Once you have a trusted training provider, you need to know which type of "certification" your job calls for.
Do I Need Construction, General Industry, or Something Else?OSHA Outreach courses are divided up by industry, to make sure you get the topics that are relevant to your worksite. You need OSHA Construction outreach training if you're a building contractor, renovation contractor, or any other type of construction worker. Getting "OSHA certified" for construction is easy – many course providers are available, and they often have training in multiple languages. You need OSHA Maritime outreach training if you work in a shipyard, marine terminal, or longshoring facility. There are fewer training options for Maritime, and they're divided up even further, so you'll need to make sure you choose the right one. For all other industries, you need General Industry outreach. This can cover anything from manufacturing and warehousing to healthcare. It's fairly easy to find General Industry providers, and some tailor their material towards a particular type of work. You should pay attention to the specific topics a course covers and find one that makes the most sense for your job. Not everyone needs General Industry training. Many low-risk industries don't require OSHA Outreach, and earning a DOL card won't be very beneficial. If you work outside of Construction or Maritime, your best bet is to check job listing requirements or ask your employer if you need General Industry training, and if so, what type.
Do I Need OSHA 10 or OSHA 30?No matter what industry your training falls under, there's one more decision: OSHA 10-hour or OSHA 30-hour. An OSHA 10 DOL card is usually enough, as long as you don't supervise other employees. It requires 10 full instructional hours, with mandatory breaks. Since OSHA limits the amount of daily instruction time, the training will last at least two days. OSHA 30 DOL cards are necessary if you have supervisory responsibilities towards others. This includes foremen, engineers, site leads, project managers, safety specialists, and others. The course is longer is because supervisors need to understand the safety rules for everyone they oversee. Due to daily limits, an OSHA 30 course can't be finished in less than four days.
Is OSHA Certification Required?Maybe. It depends where you live, where you work, and what you do.
Federally, OSHA Certification is Optional"OSHA Certification," as in OSHA Outreach Training, is absolutely voluntary by federal law. OSHA requires workers to be trained in certain safety topics, but employers have a lot of flexibility in how to provide that training. OSHA doesn't require participation in Outreach Training at all, but the curriculum often includes common required topics. If you're in a high-risk industry, it's a beneficial introduction to safety and worker's rights.
OSHA Certification is Required by Some Jurisdictions or EmployersEven though OSHA doesn't require DOL cards, some state or local jurisdictions do. For example:
- Many states require a valid DOL card if you're employed on public works projects of a certain size. That includes New York State, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Missouri. Miami-Dade County in Florida has a similar law.
- Pennsylvania requires OSHA 10 Construction for most demolition workers, construction workers, and certain contractors.
- Nevada requires all construction workers to hold a DOL card, but they've taken a more unusual step. All workers in the entertainment industry now need an OSHA 10 or 30 General Industry card.