When Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors investigate a workplace injury, they ask a lot of questions. One of the first is always, “Was the employee properly trained?”
Employers who can’t say “yes” are much more likely to face fines and corrective actions. That’s because more than 100 OSHA standards — the regulations the Administration is tasked with enforcing — specifically instruct employers to train their staff. These standards provide an answer to the first question on our list: What is OSHA training, exactly?
For our purposes, the term refers to OSHA’s training requirements, which are explained in the OSHA standards. These standards tell us what we need to know about occupational safety training as a matter of enforceable law. But with training requirements scattered across dozens of standards, differing from one industry to the next, it can be tough to figure out exactly what OSHA is asking of employers.
Here are clear answers to 10 more frequently asked questions about OSHA training, referencing current OSHA standards at the time of this writing.
10 Frequently Asked Questions about OSHA Training
1. Is OSHA training required in my industry?
Within the OSHA standards, training requirements are listed for the following industries:
- General industry
- Maritime (including shipyards, marine terminals, and longshoring)
- Federal employment
So if you operate in any of those fields, OSHA does require some sort of safety training — and pretty much every employer operates in one of these fields.
“General industry” is OSHA’s catch-all category, and this family of standards (numbered 1910 in the Code of Federal Regulations) is the largest of all OSHA regulations. According to OSHA, “general industry” includes everything except maritime, agriculture, and construction; it pretty much covers everything, including, very likely, your workplace.
2. What training does OSHA require annually?
Not all OSHA training standards require periodic updates, but of those that do, the most common timeline is once per year. In general industry, for example, annual training is required for at least the following:
- Hearing protection (95[k])
- Hazardous waste and emergency response (120[e])
- Respiratory protection (134[k])
- Fire brigades (156[c])
- Portable fire extinguishers (157[g])
- Mechanical power presses (217[h])
- Potential exposure to asbestos (1001[j][ii]), vinyl chloride (1910.1017[j][ix]), inorganic arsenic (1910.1018[o][ii]), lead (1910.1025[I][iv]), cadmium (1910.1027[m][ii]), coke oven emissions (1910.1029[k][iii]), bloodborne pathogens (1910.1030[g][ii]), and other harmful substances
For a full list of training requirements — including details on refresher training timelines — see OSHA’s publication Training Requirements in OSHA Standards, on which these FAQs rely heavily.
3. Who needs OSHA training?
While the specifics of who gets trained may differ from one standard to the next, two classes of stakeholders show up in OSHA regulations about training.
- Supervisors and managers
Typically, OSHA standards require training for employees exposed to a given hazard. Some go further and provide rules on training for management, too. For example, standard 1910.120(e), which covers hazardous waste operations, requires supervisors and on-site managers to take at least 40 hours of classroom training, three days of supervised on-site training, and at least eight more hours of specialized learning.
4. How often is OSHA training required?
Some OSHA standards only mention initial training. Others require periodic retraining, often at the rate of once per year. And some require refresher training only when certain conditions are met.
For example, standard 1910.178(4), which covers training on powered industrial trucks like forklifts, requires employers to evaluate lift truck drivers at least every three years. If they fail the test, that triggers a mandatory retraining. Employers must provide refresher training if there’s an accident or even a near-accident; if anyone sees an operator driving recklessly; or if operators have to drive new vehicles.
5. Is OSHA training mandatory?
In short, yes. All the training programs listed in the OSHA standards are requirements, and OSHA can issue citations to employers who fail to comply.
6. Where can I find OSHA training?
The term “OSHA training” doesn’t exactly mean training by employees of the Administration itself, exactly, but there is a network of OSHA-authorized training providers scattered across the U.S. These are called OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers. They may be part of a college or university, or they may be nonprofits created specifically to provide OSHA training. Regardless of how they’re organized, OTI Education Centers provide authorized training that can help with compliance.
7. How much does OSHA training cost?
Courses at OTI Education Centers vary, but can easily run in the high hundreds of dollars per student. You might find lower rates from individual Outreach Trainers, who are authorized to conduct 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA Outreach Training classes in a mix of industries.
On completion of the 10-hour or 30-hour Outreach Training class, each student receives documentation in the form of a card — a card that many employers require as proof of OSHA-compliant general safety training. (Note that the OSHA card isn’t a certification or license; it’s up to employers whether they require them or not.)
8. Can I conduct my own OSHA training program in-house?
Training requirements in OSHA standards don’t specify who must conduct the training. If you have staff members who are qualified to provide effective training, there’s nothing in the standards that says you can’t provide that training within your organization. Of course, if OSHA investigates your operation and finds that your training program is insufficient, that could open you up to citations.
That said, OSHA does provide guidance on what makes an effective safety training program. Find that resource here.
And as with all questions about OSHA training, it’s wise to check with your local OSHA field office if you’re not sure about compliance. Locate the nearest OSHA office in your area here.
9. Do the OSHA standards list all training requirements?
In this FAQ, we’ve relied heavily on the language of the OSHA standards to provide answers. But OSHA’s safety standards aren’t the only source of enforceable training requirements. Frequently, OSHA regulations refer to standards from other organizations like ANSI or NFPA. Where these outside standards show up in the OSHA regulations, they become mandatory — and many ANSI and NFPA standards have their own training requirements.
For details, contact your local OSHA field office (see link above).
10. What happens if you don’t meet OSHA training requirements?
Failure to comply with OSHA training requirements carries the same risks and consequences as any OSHA violation, including citations and fines. As of 2022, OSHA fines are capped at:
- $14,502 per violation for serious or “other-than-serious” violations
- $14,502 per day for failure to address violations after a given date
- $145,027 per violation for “willful or repeated” violations
In short, failing to comply with OSHA’s training requirements can be a costly mistake. It also inherently creates a more dangerous workplace, which goes against OSHA’s main mandate: “To ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers…”
If you didn’t find the answer to your question about OSHA training requirements on this page, contact your local OSHA office for more information.