Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970, private sector employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Those duties include providing proper training for employees on how to perform their jobs safely.
Now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal government agency that sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards, has published a comprehensive, 256-page guide explaining its training standards. Employers are required to provide such training in a language that their employees can understand.
There are OSHA standards in the new Guide for Construction work, Agriculture, Maritime operations, and General Industry, which are the standards that apply to most work sites.
These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses. Examples of OSHA standards include requirements to provide fall protection, prevent trenching cave-ins, prevent some infectious diseases, assure that workers safely enter confined spaces, prevent exposure to harmful substances like asbestos, put guards on machines, provide respirators or other safety equipment, and provide training for certain dangerous jobs.
Employers must also comply with the “General Duty” Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.
When OSHA investigates a workplace injury its representatives always ask the employer about the training that was provided to the injured employee.
The new Guide, entitled, “Training Requirements in OSHA Standards,” covers the training requirements contained in OSHA’s standards, and are organized into five categories: General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, and Federal Employee Programs.
An example of a training requirement is found in the revised Hazard Communication standard, which improves the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace. This standard states:
Employers shall provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment, and whenever a new chemical hazard the employees have not previously been trained about is introduced into their work area. Information and training may be designed to cover categories of hazards (e.g., flammability, carcinogenicity) or specific chemicals. Chemical-specific information must always be available through labels and safety data sheets.
Most private sector employees in the nation come under OSHA’s jurisdiction in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions, either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program. State programs are in place in 21 states and Puerto Rico, although not in Florida. Section 19 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and presidential Executive Order 12196 of February 26, 1980, contain special provisions to assure safe and healthful working conditions for federal employees.
Only the self-employed, immediate family members of farm employers that do not employ outside employees, and workplace hazards regulated by another Federal agency (such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Coast Guard) are not covered by OSHA.
Employers must provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and follow all relevant OSHA safety and health and training standards, and must find and correct safety and health problems. OSHA further requires employers to try to eliminate or reduce hazards first by making changes in working conditions rather than just relying on masks, gloves, ear plugs, or other types of personal protective equipment. Switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are examples of effective ways to get rid of or minimize risks, according to OSHA.
Employers must also:
- Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods;
- Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses;
- Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards;
- Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards;
- Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where employees will see them;
- Notify OSHA of all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours; and
- Not discriminate or retaliate against employees for using their rights under the law.
The OSHA Act provides employees with the right to:
- Ask OSHA to inspect their workplace;
- Use their rights under the law without retaliation and discrimination;
- Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace;
- Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace;
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses; and
- Get copies of their medical records.
The OSHA Guide may be accessed online free of charge at: