What is ANSI/ASSE?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private 501(c)3 non-profit institute dedicated to creating voluntary consensus standards and guidelines, which help guide businesses and other organizations in the best practices of their industries. The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP, formerly the American Society of Safety Engineers, or ASSE) is a professional society for health and safety professionals, which aims to improve safety in the workplace and advance the occupational health and safety profession. Together these two organizations developed the ANSI/ASSE Z309.1 standard.
What is ANSI/ASSE Z309.1-2017?
ANSI/ASSE Z309.1-2017 Accepted Practices for Hydrogen Sulfide Training Programs is a voluntary standard for the development of H2S training programs in the workplace. It outlines the ASSP’s recommendations for effective training programs, including recommendations for trainer qualifications, training content, and training duration and frequency. The 2017 edition is the most recent version of this standard and represents several changes from the previous version.
Is ANSI/ASSE Z390.1-2017 the Law?
The short answer is “no.” ANSI standards are voluntary consensus standards. Z390.1 is not enforceable by law. Further, complying with Z390.1 does not guarantee that employers are in compliance with federal or state occupational safety and health laws, or any other laws. However, the standard does represent an industry consensus of best practices and is widely accepted as an excellent source of guidance. It is generally advisable to consult ANSI standards in the development of any health and safety program, and SafetySkills consulted Z390.1-2017 heavily when developing its H2S training materials.
What is ANSI/ASSE Z390.1-2017 H2S Certification?
Under the new 2017 standard, ANSI recommends certification-level training for all individuals who have potential for exposure to H2S concentrations above the occupational exposure limit. In order to qualify for certification, the training must be delivered by a competent instructor (based on criteria outlined in the standard), must be a minimum of 3-4 hours in length, and must cover all topics listed in the standard that are relevant to the worker and/or workplace. The employer is responsible for issuing certificates, and for ensuring that the training provided is appropriate and comprehensive. Certifications are good for one year.
Does ANSI/ASSE Z390.1-2017 Forbid Online or Computer-Based Training?
The 2017 edition of the Z390.1 standard removed the section that detailed requirements for computer-based training. Some companies have interpreted this to mean that online and computer-based training is not acceptable under the ANSI standard. SafetySkills does not agree that computer-based training has no role in an effective H2S safety program.
However, it is true that the 2017 standard does not include recommendations for how to design a computer-based training course. It also does not include recommendations for creating a slideshow presentation, a textbook, course handouts, or other materials commonly used in creating an in-person training program. Rather, the standard focuses on the content of the course, not the medium.
The standard also does not say at any point that in-person training is required. However, the standard does have some requirements which clearly cannot be met without in-person training. For example, the standard requires “hands-on training with the specific H2S detector to be used in the field,” as well as respirator fit testing and medical evaluation. Clearly, these are topics which cannot be covered by computer-based training.
SafetySkills absolutely agrees that no online or computer-based training program could completely fulfill the training requirements under ANSI/ASSE Z390.1-2017, or the requirements of other standards that require site- or equipment-specific learning objectives. However, many of the required topics in ANSI/ASSE Z390.1-2017 consist of background education that lend themselves well to self-paced study using reference materials such as computer-based training.
Background information and foundational topics such as the properties and characteristics of H2S, recommended exposure limits, the signs and symptoms of H2S exposure, and the principles of a standard exposure prevention plan may actually be taught better through self-directed training techniques such as online training, because they allow workers to fully explore and grasp these concepts at their own pace before moving on to more complex practical instruction. Computer-based training also ensures that this “baseline” information is delivered uniformly and consistently across all employees each year, providing a solid and reliable foundation on which trainers can build.
What Does SafetySkills’ H2S Course Cover?
The SafetySkills online H2S course addresses background information including:
- The hazards, characteristics and properties of H2S
- Sources of H2S
- H2S exposure limits
- Symptoms of H2S exposure
- Standard practices for H2S detection and control
- API H2S hazard conditions
- Standard practices for emergency response
- OSHA H2S regulations
What Does SafetySkills’ H2S Course NOT Cover?
The SafetySkills online H2S course does not address:
- Other relevant regulations, including state and local regulations applicable to a particular worksite
- Site-specific controls, policies and emergency procedures
- Site-specific sources of H2S
- Site-specific orientation
- Respiratory protection training
- Training over other required PPE and rescue equipment