By Stephanie Spann & Marg Stark
[4 minute read]
“Who gets service this fast?!” That’s how Scott Hultstrom, a national coordinator and general industry trainer in Arizona, reacted recently, after receiving — in short order — his official Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) cards from OSHA personnel at UC San Diego Extension.
Indeed, this outreach team has become known for its rapid turnaround of the all-important Department of Labor-issued cards, which certify the completion of safety courses and often serve as the entry ticket for workers to their job sites. The UC San Diego OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) issues 98 percent of its cards within 48 hours, while 30 days is the standard processing time in other regions — a dramatic contrast.
The importance of these cards has never been lost on Stephanie MacGilfrey, who has served since 2011 as Outreach Training Manager for the UCSD OSHA OTIEC.
“I joined OSHA in 2011 to convert the paper documentation for cards to an electronic system,” she says, “something no one believed could be done — and which we were the first center in the nation to execute.”
A leader from the start, UC San Diego was among the first groups selected by the federal government to become an OSHA-authorized education center; indeed, the idea for the centers came directly from Dr. John Peak, the director of engineering at UC San Diego in 1991.
UC San Diego OTIEC coordinates training across Region IX in 12 cities in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. In 2011, when MacGilfrey joined the OTIEC Outreach Team, they issued 11,000 cards to 1,000 trainers each year. Today, the four-member team issues 150,000 cards to 4,000 trainers.
Who are the trainers? They are professionals who have completed the required prerequisites; have a minimum of five years of safety experience in construction, general industry, maritime or disaster-site worker; and have completed an OSHA trainer course at an Authorized Training Organization (ATO). Once they successfully pass the trainer course, they can teach OSHA Outreach Training Program classes for their employer or as consultants.
Coming from a healthcare background, MacGilfrey had a vision to offer a higher standard of customer service to these trainers. “Perhaps not always face-to-face, but I wanted it to be as personable as possible, always intent on relationship building.”
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, MacGilfrey and her team members began offering “Trainer Talk Tuesdays,” web forums where they answer questions from trainers dealing with unprecedented challenges.
“The first time, we wondered if anyone would show up,” she admits, “but the response has been wonderful. We answered questions such as ‘What do I do if my authorization status expires during the pandemic?’ and ‘Which OTIEC locations are closed?’”
Prior to the pandemic, the outreach team made themselves available in-person, traveling to safety courses to meet students personally and encourage them to become trainers. In another creative initiative, the team held “Lunch and Learns,” inviting prospective trainers to come for pizza and some help as they complete the cumbersome application process. Since the pandemic, the outreach team joins Zoom meetings to assist prospective trainers.
A tribute to the quality of the program and its service, 75 percent of the students who take OSHA classes at UC San Diego go on to become authorized trainers. Recently, two professionals flew from New York to Las Vegas to take safety classes with Region IX’s OTIEC “because they heard about the customer service at the UCSD OTIEC Outreach Training Department,” MacGilfrey shares.
Once authorized, the trainers commit to the UCSD OTIEC for four years, becoming the arms of the organization to train workers in safety in a myriad of industries and locations. Not only does this ensure that health and safety know-how is seeded throughout the region’s workplaces, it brings in revenue that expands the programs the UCSD OTIEC can offer.
While MacGilfrey can’t currently travel to the host sites, she planned to visit in 2020. Her team is proud of how they pivoted during the pandemic. In mid-May, the U.S. Department of Labor, Directorate of Training and Education, for the first time, granted permission for Virtual Instructor-Led Training courses. MacGilfrey and her staff now tune into these courses via Zoom to introduce themselves and offer information about the authorized trainer opportunities at UC San Diego.
Indeed, the outreach office never closed amid the COVID-19 shutdowns and received special permission from the Associate Dean to return to work. Team members who were comfortable doing so go into the office once a week to process the cards. In this way, UC San Diego continues to rapidly deliver OSHA cards that represent the gold standard in the safety industry and are critical to the productivity and well-being of American workers.