Posted on: April 26, 2022

What is EM 385-1-1 Training & Certification?

em385 training

If you're in the construction industry, you're probably familiar with OSHA training. You know what it is, where to find it, how long it takes, and how often to refresh yourself.

If you've just started working as (or for) a government contractor, you're probably coming up against new safety training requirements. And you're wondering, what is EM 385-1-1 training?

What is EM 385-1-1?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has its own safety and health requirements that apply to all Corps of Engineers activities and operations.

EM 385-1-1 is the Safety and Health Requirements Manual where all these requirements are laid out. "EM" stands for "Engineering Manual."

16-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


24-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


40-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


8-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


Is EM 385 Training the Same as OSHA Training?

Both programs cover similar topics and often require similar safety measures. In fact, EM 385-1-1 incorporates many OSHA standards by reference.

However, USACE regulations tend to be more involved than OSHA Construction standards.

How is EM 385-1-1 Different From OSHA Standards?

Some of the technical requirements of EM 385-1-1 are more stringent than 29 CFR 1926.

One example is fall standards. While OSHA allows provisions for self-rescue in the event of a fall, EM 385 requires employers to provide prompt rescue and maintain a written Fall Rescue Plan. (In case you're wondering which section of the EM 385-1-1 outlines the fall protection requirements, you can find them under Section 21).

However, the biggest difference between OSHA and USACE safety regulations are that OSHA leaves the administration and management of safety and health fairly open, while EM 385-1-1 dictates a lot of the administrative routine to actively engage crews in their safety and health program.

For example, employers are required to keep a written Accident Prevention Plan (APP). They're also required to create an Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA) for each job being performed.

It's not all paperwork, either. EM 385-1-1 requires point persons and lays out routines to ensure that the written plans are followed.

The USACE standards create a full-time dedicated position known as a Site Safety Health Officer (SSHO) that oversees compliance with EM 385-1-1 and ensures safe and healthful working conditions on-site. The SSHO helps in both the planning and paperwork, but also through on-site supervision and hazard correction. The regulations lay out requirements for SSHO coverage when there are multiple sites, multiple shifts, or absences of a certain length. Essentially, someone needs to actively monitor safety at all times.

EM 385 also requires "frequent and regular inspections of the job sites, materials, and equipment." This creates a structure for catching unaddressed hazards or safety violations, then correcting them.

Finally, EM 385-1-1 has more thorough requirements for safety training. Workers must all receive an initial safety indoctrination, which is similar to OSHA's (more vaguely worded) requirement.

In contrast to OSHA, specific ongoing safety discussions (including any necessary training) are mandatory on a federal project. There's even a prescribed frequency – at least once a week for all workers. The supervisors and foremen who give the weekly safety talks are required to meet at least once a month for their own discussion.

The regs require that all safety meetings are documented, including attendance and content. Content must be relevant for the specific job, and contractors have to review both past activities and any plans for new or changed operations. In other words, contractors can't just pull up generic safety talks and check a box.

Who Needs EM 385 Training?

EM 385 training is mandatory for anyone who works on military and federally funded contracts or projects, including contractors and military or government employees expected to enforce or comply with EM 385-1-1.

So, for example, if you're a contractor working on a military installation or if you're assisting on an Army Corps project, you need the training.

Some state and local projects also rely on the EM 385 model, either because the project is partially funded with federal dollars or because it's an easy way to reduce liability without reinventing the wheel.

Which EM 385 Training Do You Need?

There are several EM 385-1-1 courses to choose from. They vary in length, and which one you need depends on your role.

Most workers need the 16-Hour EM 385 Training. This is an orientation that covers the safety standards you'll need to comply with on a military or government project. Anyone without supervisory duties should take the 16-hour course.

Collateral Duty Safety Officers (CDSOs) need to complete the 24-Hour EM 385 Training. This is the appropriate training for managers, supervisors, and crew leaders. "Collateral Duty" means you have safety responsibilities that aren't your primary job.

The Site Safety Health Officer (SSHO) on a military contract or project needs an initial 40-Hour EM 385 Training, followed by an annual 8-Hour EM 385 Refresher Training.

Many military and government contractors are also required to have an up-to-date OSHA 30 card.

How Long is EM 385 Good For?

Technically speaking, EM 385 certification doesn't expire. In other words, there's no mandatory refresher period in the EM 385 regulations for most government contract workers.

There are, however, official refresher or continuing education requirements for designated officers, like CDSOs and SSHOs.

Additionally, your employer may require periodic refreshers for everyone. Government contractors can get in big trouble if EM 385-1-1 standards aren't being followed as required, so they want to make sure everyone has EM 385 training fresh on their minds. Check with them to see what the expectations are for refreshers and re-training.

Get EM 385 Certification Online

EM 385-1-1 allows for online safety and health training as long as you're able to ask questions of the instructor by phone or chat.

As a long-time OSHA-authorized training provider with a long history of excellent service, our online courses meet EM 385-1-1 requirements. You can complete EM 385 certification (and update your DOL card) at your own pace and on your own schedule – from anywhere with an internet connection.

Get started by enrolling today!