<img alt="" src="https://secure.tent0mown.com/160156.png" style="display:none;">

Rock Your EHS Training with ASSE/ANSI Z490 Standard on EHS Training

Posted by Jonathan Klane on Apr 13, 2021 11:47:14 AM
ANSI/ASSE Z490 Standard on EHS Training has been available for a decade and a half, and few EHS departments use it. The question is, of course, why not use it? Is it fear of the unknown? Do EHS professionals and trainers think it will limit their training or "handcuff" them to unnecessary requirements? There seem to be many false myths that will be dispelled.

Not only that, but also this paper will demonstrate that one can have a-rockin' EHS training program, complete with adult learning principles, and still comply with Z490! One should never "settle" for second best when it comes to EHS training – it's too damn important!
This article will address many questions, including:
  1. What are the major sections of Z490?
  2. What are some recent updates to Z490?
  3. If we adopt it, what are we then obligated to do?
  4. How can it really help our EHS training program?
  5. What other questions might people have?

Major Sections of ANSI/ASSE Z490

There are seven sections and four annexes in Z490. They are:


  1. Scope, Purpose, and Application
  2. Definitions
  3. Management of a Comprehensive Training Program
  4. Training Program / Course Development
  5. Training Delivery
  6. Training Evaluation
  7. Documentation and Recordkeeping
  1. References
  2. Training Course Development Guidelines
  3. Safety, Health, and Environmental Trainer's Checklist
  4. Virtual Learning

Let's start by taking a brief look at each of the major sections.

1. Scope, Purpose, and Application:

This section is easily summed up in one 3-part sentence. Z490 is about the criteria ("scope") for the accepted practices ("purpose") of EHS training/trainers ("application"). That's it – simple, isn't it?

2. Definitions:

There are only 14 definitions in Z490. These range from the ANSI/ASSE consistent ones (i.e., may, shall, and should) to the expected but very obvious (e.g., trainer, training, and training everything [course, event, program, provider, etc.] to the somewhat more sublime (e.g., certificate, competent training professional, credit, and virtual learning). None of the 14 terms are so specific as to "lock" one into something. On the contrary, they are pretty generic or wide-ranging.

3. Management of a Comprehensive Training Program:

Section 3 on the management of one's EHS program comprises just four subparts - accountability and responsibility, minimum requirements, resource management and administration, and evaluation – that's all. Within these four subparts, there aren't a lot of things you have to do. You need to identify areas of responsibility and accountability, provide some level of resources, administrate the training, and evaluate it. Oh, and yes, there are a few "minimums." But these minimums are very basic and traditional elements of any training program. What are they? They're such basics as development, needs assessment, objectives, design, format, delivery, completion criteria, evaluation, and recordkeeping of documentation. That's all – and they are the basics that every good training program should have anyway. Really.

4. Training Program / Course Development:

Section 4 is probably the biggest section with helpful guidance on many basic elements of any adult learning. These include needs assessment, learning objectives, design, delivery method(s), content, instructional materials, trainer qualifications, environment, strategy, completion, and continuous improvement.

5. Training Delivery:

Section 5 on training delivery (my favorite section, of course) has some good "meat" to it, too. General subparts include trainer qualifications and delivery methods and materials. Planning and preparation have also been added here.

6. Training Evaluation:

This section overviews a variety of aspects, including general criteria, approaches, and continuous improvement.

7. Documentation and Recordkeeping:

The last section includes aspects of records, including systems, procedures, records, confidentiality/availability, and issuing certificates.

It's also important to understand the four annexes and their overall guidance, so let's review them.

A. References:

There are almost 20 references or resources to consider using in your training, five of which are recent additions.

B. Training Course Development Guidelines:

This annex is by far the most comprehensive one. There is a nice overview on course development with a newly added paragraph on structuring a training course with nine steps of how to do so.

C. Safety, Health, and Environmental Trainer's Checklist:

This annex has a detailed checklist with five major parts and various subparts and items within each of the five. These include delivery, planning/preparation, special issues, other considerations, and key points of delivery. There's also a "day of" checklist. It's a great multitude of basically bullet items to tick off one's list.

D. Virtual Learning:

This is a new annex with four nice parts and many bullet points under each.

Recent Updates to Z490

There really weren't many changes of a significant nature in this revision and process. Mostly it was cleaning up some wording to make it a bit more comprehensive and smoother. Some specifics include:

  • Adding needs assessment, development, delivery, evaluation, and management to the purpose.
  • We are adding managing and management of the training program throughout it.
  • Section 3 became much more about the management of a comprehensive training program (rather than a somewhat disjointed or, heaven forbid, haphazard one).
  • Of course, we are adding a definition for "Virtual Learning."
    Beefing up guidance (and I do mean guidance only) on training evaluations.
  • Differentiating between the (overall) training program and (any individual) course development.
  • Added "literacy" as an issue or concern.
  • Clarified regulatory requirements vs. training needs and the "need" to consider whether training is even the right "response" or solution.
    Under objectives, added, "skills" and "attitudes" to "knowledge" (to round out KSAs).
  • Filled out training development with greater helpful details.
    Made mention of virtual learning and having a secure connection.
    Added that trainer qualifications should include both subject matter expertise and delivery skills.
  • Suggests that "testing out" may be an option to be specified.
    Added a few items under training planning and preparation.
    Added that there shouldn't be noise, should be lighting, and provisions made for emergency aid.
  • Did a little bit of nuancing under evaluations.
  • Added that incidents, observations, and audits should be used to hone the training and evaluations.
  • Tweaked recordkeeping to include certification.
  • Added resources to Annex A.
  • Added a paragraph on how to structure a training course in Annex B.
  • Made a bunch of minor edits.
  • Added Annex D on Virtual Learning.

Obligations Under Z490

Beyond the "standard" requirements (which are very basic, as discussed above), there isn't a lot. Have a management system, including the usual training elements, use some common best practices, and document, document, document.

How Z490 Can Help Your EHS Training

Z490 is a bit like an owner's manual that you get to write – how awesome is that?! But wait – there's more! Sorry. Anyway, Z490 is perhaps best at helping you organize your EHS training and ensuring that you're adopting some type of management system along with a few best practices. And you know what? That's good enough. It has few minimums that any decent training program is likely to have anyway. Also, it allows you to stipulate what it is you're doing to manage your EHS training. So, go ahead, rock it! (and then document what you did to make your EHS training as fantastic as it is).

Possible Questions?

That's a good question – what other questions might fellow EHS trainers have about Z490 that we haven't already discussed? Most seem to ask about the experience(s) of others who've implemented Z490. Yeah, right. There is a dearth of organizations that've adopted it. This is likely due to two things – no regulatory imperative and a profound lack of exposure/knowledge about it. I guess we'll see in the future how it goes.

Final Thoughts on Z490

That's really all there is to it. Z490 is mostly just a standard for organizing, managing, and documenting your EHS training, as well as a few best practices thrown in for good measure. So, what's stopping you from adopting and using it to the benefit of your EHS training program?

Happy training!

Where do you want to take your EHS training?