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What I Need to Know Now About ANSI Z490.1 Standard on EHS Training

Posted by Jonathan Klane on Apr 13, 2021 12:04:22 PM


Does your organization have a Hazard Communication program? Sure you do. What about an emergency action or response plan? “Of course,” you say. A lockout/tag-out program? Most likely. Other health and safety programs and plans? I bet you answered “yes” to all four questions. (By the way, those were all rhetorical questions, so don’t answer out loud, or people around you will begin to wonder.)

Now then, what about a written EHS training program? Now I bet you answered “no” – and that’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate because, as with the written plans you said you have, you should also have a written EHS training plan. Without a written plan on EHS training, how will you know that the training is correct, consistent, well developed, delivered, and effective? Most likely, you won’t or don’t know. In the book “Alice in Wonderland,” the Cheshire Cat asked Alice (when she said she didn’t know where she was going, just that she was in a hurry), “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” How will you know when your organization gets “there” in training? 

You probably won’t know – that’s where an EHS training plan comes in.  

So if you’re going to develop an EHS Training Plan or Program, wouldn’t you likely (or like to) use an existing standard that has been well developed, is credible, and well-accepted? 

“Sure I would,” you say (to yourself – the folks nearby think you’re working too hard and have lost touch with reality when you talk to yourself aloud). Well, you’ll be glad to know that there is an EHS Training Standard – it is ANSI Z490.1 - Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health, and Environmental Training. This standard has been accepted since 2000 and is a comprehensive standard for any EHS training.

Even if you don’t think that you need an EHS Training Program, you still do EHS training, don’t you? 

Hello? Still there? That’s good. I thought you’d left when I didn’t hear you answer. Anyway, as I was saying, you do EHS training – and probably a lot of it. Haz com, LOTO, BBPs, noise/hearing conservation, HAZWOPER, PRCSs, fire, EAP, ERP, ad nauseam, it seems like the list and the training goes on and on and on…. 

Where was I? Oh yes, EHS training. Well, OSHA lists the required training topics, but they don’t tell you how to do the activity. That’s where the Z490 standard comes in. It goes into detail on all manner of training issues and guidelines – from development to delivery to evaluation and documentation – “it’s in there!” (sounds like a spaghetti sauce ad – sorry, no “product placements” here – you’ll have to figure out which sauce uses that as its tag-line).

Are you looking for a “best practice” in EHS training or an “accepted practice”? Want your HazCom training to be “effective training” as OSHA requires, and any good trainer, of course, wants that. Were you looking for standardized methods for evaluation and documentation? You guessed it – Z490 has got it (you’re so smart!).

“What’s in it?” you say. Funny you should ask – let’s take a look at its overall content. (Again, stop asking out loud – or is it the voices in my head?)

The standard has two columns – the left one gives “Standard Requirements” and the right one gives “Explanatory Information,” which helps clarify the standard requirements. The standard contains seven sections, three annexes, and two checklists. They are as follows:

  • Section 1 – Scope, purpose, and application
  • Section 2 – Definition
  • Section 3 – Training Program Administration and Management
  • Section 4 – Training Development
  • Section 5 – Training Delivery
  • Section 6 – Training Evaluation
  • Section 7 – Documentation and Record-Keeping
  • Annex A – References
  • Annex B – Training Course Development Guidelines
  • Annex C – Training Delivery
  • Appendix C – Safety, Health, and Environmental Trainer’s Checklist and

Day of Training Checklist

Let’s take a brief look at each one of the above, shall we? (Don’t answer – you know why).

Section 1 – Scope, Purpose, and Application: Pretty obvious, this section gives the range of applicability and where to use the standard (any EHS training, but again, it makes for an excellent benchmark for any training – not just EHS. “Z490 – it’s not just for EHS training anymore!” Another great advertising tag-line, don’t you think? Don’t bother answering).

Section 2 – Definitions: Everything from “certificate” to “trainer” is defined in this section.

Section 3 – Training Program Administration and Management: This section goes into great detail on responsibility and accountability for the training program and discusses appropriate resources and evaluation as well.

Section 4 – Training Development: One of the more significant areas of the standard, this section discusses needs assessments, learning objectives, course design, and training methods in much detail. All of the components that make up and go into effective training development.  

Section 5 – Training Delivery: Another extensive section, this one, of course, discusses trainer criteria, subject matter expertise, continuing ed., management of the class, planning and preparation, delivery skills, and even adult learning principles (yay!).

Section 6 – Training Evaluation: The most extensive section (believe it or not) is very comprehensive. It covers the evaluation of the trainee (and their new skills), the training (and its effectiveness), and the trainer (and their impression on the trainees).

Section 7 – Documentation and Record-Keeping: This section obviously discusses what records to keep (a lot) and how to document them (paper copies, electronically, etc.).

Annex A – References: This “informative” annex gives a wide range of training references from ISO, ANSI, NIOSH, OSHA, IACET, and ASTD for use and, well, your reference (of course).  

Annex B – Training Course Development Guidelines: This additional “informative” annex goes into great detail for several pages on course development and expands upon section 4 quite a bit.  

Annex C – Training Delivery: Of course this “informative” annex does likewise for section 5 by detailing what makes for an effective trainer.  

Appendix C – Safety, Health, and Environmental Trainer’s Checklist: A vast “trainer’s checklist” is included as part of annex C – much detail.

Appendix C – Day of Training Checklist:  Last but not least, a “Day of Training Checklist” covering everything from training location and the A/V through the trainer’s image to thanking the class.

Wow! So as you can see, there is a ton of very good, helpful information and guidance in the standard. 

Still not sure what to do? You can get the standard from ASSE at www.asse.org. Take a look at it – it’ll help your organization’s EHS training program. Perhaps you even noticed that it’s really about any training or adult learning, so you should be able to incorporate other training (e.g., human resources, quality, etc.) into your program or plan as well as your EHS training (everything from asbestos to zero energy state training).  

What? Are you still not sure you’ll be able to come up with an EHS Training Program or Plan? Well, there also is an implementation guide that you can get to supplement the standard (it doesn’t replace it – you still need the standard – it’s more of an adjunct to it). You can also get the “Accepted EHS Training Practices – An Implementation Guide” Implementing the ANSI/ASSE Z490.1: Criteria for Accepted Practices in EHS Training. Available through Business & Legal Reports at www.blr.com (ISBN 1-880998-30-8).

Now stop talking to yourself, go get the standard, and develop your EHS Training Program or Plan!