Is OSHA Training Mandatory?
The answer’s a little complicated.
OSHA requires that employers train employees in the health and safety aspects of their job. OSHA’s regulations (“standards”) explicitly require training on certain topics. Documentation that employees have taken a class isn’t enough to satisfy their requirements. OSHA inspectors will quiz employees to make sure everyone understands the required protocols.
OSHA doesn’t actually require Outreach Training courses (the 10- or 30-Hour programs that earn you a Department of Labor or “DOL” card). But Outreach courses do provide a solid foundation for safety training, so many employers use them.
Certain jurisdictions and industries require them as well.
For example, seven states require or strongly encourage 10-Hour Construction training: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
Types of OSHA Courses
OSHA courses can be divided up in a few ways:
- By Standard. OSHA divides different industries into different standards. Construction, Agriculture, and Maritime standards address the needs of those particular industries, and General Industry covers everything else. Other standards, like Recordkeeping, impact everyone.
- By Degree of Responsibility. The amount of training required to do a job safely is different than the amount of training required to supervise and manage the safety of a whole team. This is the primary difference between 10-Hour and 30-Hour Outreach courses.
- By Function. OSHA regulations require special safety training for certain protocols and responsibilities. This is often called “function-specific” training.
OSHA Outreach courses are named by standard and degree of responsibility: 10-Hour Construction, 30-Hour General Industry, and so on.
Each course covers function-specific topics that are useful to that industry. You might get Scaffold training in Construction Outreach, or Machine Guarding in a General Industry. More of these topics are covered in a 30-Hour course, because supervisors need to understand the requirements for all of their workers.
Different Formats for Training
Once you’ve determined what courses you need, the next questions are how and where. There are three basic formats of OSHA training: in-person, online, and a hybrid approach.
The traditional method of training is in person. Courses happen at union facilities, vocational schools, and factory floors all the time.
In the “pro” column, classroom training is low-tech and interactive. Some students learn better face-to-face where they can ask questions and have a discussion. In-person training also gives the opportunity to practice the use of personal protective and other equipment.
The “cons”: Scheduling is a pain, as is commuting. Employees have to take time out of their jobs or their lives. Some students will be bored to death while others struggle to keep up. And it’s expensive.
Online courses have gained popularity over the last 20 years.
On the upside, they’re cheaper—companies often save up to 80% in direct training costs when they switch to online training. It’s also more efficient—course lengths can easily be cut in half. Students only get the topics that are directly relevant to them, and everyone is trained consistently.
The drawbacks are a lack of interpersonal connection and opportunity to practice physical skills. Plus, there are potential obstacles for anyone in the workforce who isn’t tech savvy.
A blended approach to safety training seems to provide the best of both worlds. The bulk of the information can be delivered online, for a self-paced and flexible learning experience. Then certain topics can be supplemented in person with hands-on experience and a test of physical competencies.
What Does OSHA-Authorized Training Mean?
Whatever format you use, you should make sure the training provider’s “OSHA authorized.” For the most part, OSHA training isn’t provided by OSHA itself. It’s provided by private organizations that have earned OSHA’s stamp of approval.
Becoming an OSHA-authorized trainer is a big commitment. First, you need 5 years of safety experience in the industry you’ll teach. Then you take an extensive amount of coursework in OSHA policies and procedures, general safety and health principles for your industry, and specific OSHA standards. OSHA requires refresher training every four years. Trainer cards are industry-specific—they’re only authorized to teach the standard printed on their trainer card.
Any company can build a training program for their own workers without official approval. But only trainers who’ve completed this process can provide authentic Outreach training and issue valid DOL cards.
And for companies that outsource training to third party instructors, OSHA authorization is a sign that the provider is qualified to deliver.
How Do Employees Pay for Training?
In many cases, the cost of training is the employer’s responsibility:
- OSHA requires mandatory training on specific occupational hazards to be provided at no cost to employees
- Employers can’t use loopholes or workarounds to force the cost on employees
- Certificates of completion belong to the employee, not the employer (in other words, it remains valid when they leave)
- Mandatory training must be considered paid “work time,” according to the Fair Labor Standards Act
However, these rules don’t apply to OSHA Outreach courses, since OSHA considers them voluntary.
Some employers make a valid DOL card a condition of employment at hiring. In those cases, employees have to pay for 10-Hour or 30-Hour training themselves. Online training can be the best option in these cases, because it’s affordable, flexible, and self-paced.
How Often is Training Required?
It varies. OSHA’s guidelines say that follow-up or refresher training should be conducted if:
- New workplace hazards are introduced
- Standards, policies, or procedures change in a way that impacts safety training
- Employee performance proves that previous training was inadequate or not understood
- The required frequency for training is about to elapse
Not all OSHA standards have training frequency built into the language, but many do. Phrases like “at least annually” cover all of the circumstances above.
For Outreach courses, OSHA’s position is that the training never expires. However, employers and jurisdictions that require DOL cards usually make employees repeat the course periodically. The frequency varies, but it’s typically between 3 and 5 years.
Now That You Know…
Are you ready to start your OSHA training today? We’ve been a trusted provider of online OSHA-authorized training for 15 years. We offer Construction or General Industry Outreach courses, function-specific OSHA training, New York OSHA, Cal-OSHA, and other environmental health and safety courses. Our online coursework is time-tested, affordable, expertly designed and always up to date. And we have business solutions to help employers easily manage, track, and organize workforce training.