Ensure that OSHA Harwood Safety Training Grants continue to receive funding

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By way of introduction, I am a construction safety professional with nearly 30 years in the industry. I have worked with large and small contractors and organizations around the country. I would like to take a few moments to address just one small component of upcoming budget challenges regarding workplace safety – Occupational Safety and Health Administration Susan Harwood Grants.

From the OSHA website ( ):

OSHA began awarding training grants in 1978. Since that time, approximately $205 million dollars has been awarded to approximately 1,000 non-profit organizations to provide training on a variety of safety and health topics.

When broken down into its supporting numbers, the period from FY ’01 to FY ’16 totaled $158.2 million dollars in grants awarded, and 1,379,226 documented training attendees. That equates to approximately $115 per attendee over the period, according to available documentation. Course design and delivery method varies tremendously based on subject matter, but this figure compares very favorably with many online and in-person offerings that are available from private providers (many of us get the brochures and email offerings all the time) ranging from $89 for an 8 hour online class, to $179 and up for a day-long in person "seminar".

Training programs under these grants are developed and provided by unions, industry and management associations, non-profit safety and cultural organizations, universities, and labor-management collaboratives. They purposefully reach all aspects of the workforce including general industry, maritime and construction employees, both English and non-English speaking.

I was personally involved in a number of grant training programs from 2002 until 2007, having worked as a content developer and trainer for Steel Erection, Fall Protection, Focus Four, and Trenching & Excavation. I was able to participate in the provision of training programs around the country – at no cost to the attendees. I can say without hesitation that these programs were a tremendous success, and that we reached many employees who might not otherwise have attended training. Our classes were invariably met with comments such as “best training ever…entertaining…engaging…learned more than I thought I would”. By cooperating with our OSHA-personnel reviewers and approvers, the groups I worked with were able to put together some great programs that STILL touch audiences to this day.

By touching audiences to this day, I mean that the numbers shown above do not accurately reflect the breadth of exposure these training programs have had not only around the country, but around the world. The numbers above indicate bodies in seats, during the grant year presentations. They do not reflect the (literally) tens of thousands of CDs and DVDs that were distributed at the same time under the grants, and that are still being used to this day for training purposes. They do not reflect the fact that many of the supporting documents for the hundreds of grant programs developed over the years are available for free download from OSHA’s website, along with grantee sites.

The numbers do not reflect the fact that, since I uploaded a copy of the Trenching & Excavation video I worked on in 2005 to my Youtube site ( ) in December of 2015, that video has received over 28,000 views, with comments such as:

“Excellent video! This is the most informative trenching and shoring video we have seen. We can't wait to share this information with our trainees.”

“Outstanding training video! Very informative. I would like to use this in my training.”

“Excellent training, great use of grant money. This information needed to be easy to access for all.”

Twelve years later, a Harwood Grant program is still having an impact. And this is only one example, one that I know for a fact, and can document. It does not include all of the anecdotal evidence, the stories, and the testimony I have heard over the years. These programs work, with both an immediate AND long term effect.

Cutting Harwood Grants from the OSHA budget would be a tremendous step backwards from the public/private partnership that OSHA has developed with its affected employers, and will have an immediate negative impact on all workplaces across the country. Removing this valuable resource and training mechanism will leave many employees untrained, and will create a tremendous vacuum in the development and dissemination of training materials among safety professionals not only here in the US, but internationally as well.

$115 per person, hard cost. Tens of thousands of employees trained, every year. Residual effects that are indeterminable. If anything should be done with Harwood Grants, it would be an expansion, not a contraction. The value achieved by these comparatively small expenditures is incalculable.

This is only one small monetary component of the much larger budgetary issues we are faced with, but it is indicative of the fact that a broad brush approach to budgetary cuts could have a significant and harmful impact on workplace safety. Every line item needs to be assessed, and we have to ensure that the appropriate value is there. In this case, there is NO QUESTION.

If you have ever attended a Harwood program, if you have ever used the materials, if you've ever cut and pasted a photo from them, or used a Harwood PowerPoint, you know what I mean. If you're an Outreach Trainer and use OSHA's programs for training, there's a good chance that they include content from Grant programs...Please, let your voice be heard. Send a note to your Senator, or Congressman. Get involved.

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