OSHA labor laws

Labor Law Deep Dive: OSHA hazard communications, training, and more


  • OSHA requires all employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards.
  • Employers with workers who may be exposed to hazardous substances must have a written Hazard Communication Program.
  • Many, if not most, OSHA standards have a training requirement.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (popularly known as OSHA), the primary responsibility of any employer is to provide a “workplace free from serious recognized hazards and to comply with standards, rules, and regulations issued under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.”

Let’s take a deep dive OSHA hazard communications, training, and record-keeping requirements.

Hazard Communications

Employers with workers who may be exposed to hazardous substances in their workplace must have in place a written Hazard Communication Program. They must also comply with other requirements of the standard. All employees must be aware of potentially dangerous chemicals around them and receive training in hazardous material handling.

  • A hazard communications program includes a written plan describing how the OSHA standard will be implemented in the workplace.
  • The standard requires labels, tags, or identifying marks for all containers of hazardous chemicals, including appropriate warnings.
  • All employers must have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical used in the workplace.

Employers with workers who may be exposed to hazardous substances in their workplace must have in place a written Hazard Communication Program.

Training Requirements

In the spirit of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” OSHA seeks to help employers protect their workers not only by enforcing standards but by requiring training and education. Many of the standards of the OSH act include specific training requirements so that workers are familiar with safety regulations and equipment.

The hazard communications standard is one of many that contain a training requirement. In this case, each employee who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals when working must be trained and given necessary information before their first assignment working with the chemicals.

As another example, employers are required to provide personal fall protection for employees working six feet or more above a lower platform or the ground. They also must provide training on how to use that equipment.

“Appendix C to 1910.66 – Personal Fall Arrest System” states employees shall be trained in the safe use of the system in accordance with the requirements of a particular paragraph and section within the act. In the case of fall arrest systems, the referenced paragraph states, “All employees who operate working platforms shall be trained in the following—personal fall arrest system inspection, care, use, and system performance.”

OSHA training requirements can be found here.

Record Keeping Requirements

OSHA requires employers to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. The only exceptions are employers retaining 10 or fewer employees and those in certain low-hazard industries. Employees, former employees, or their authorized representatives have the right to access the employer’s log of work-related injuries and illnesses, commonly kept on OSHA Form 300 or equivalent.

Here are a few universal OSHA record-keeping requirements:

  • All employers, regardless of the number of employees, must report all work-related fatalities within eight hours of occurrence.
  • All work-related hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye must be reported within 24 hours of occurrence.
  • All records must be maintained at the worksite for at least five years.

Employers can obtain OSHA record-keeping forms: 300, 300A, and 301, as well as the instructions from the OSHA website. OSHA maintains an Injury Tracking Application (ITA) where employers can electronically report information from form 300A, a summary of the previous year’s work-related injuries and illnesses.

The OSHA standards are extremely detailed, and each standard can have multiple subparts. Since understanding the standards is so important for employers, OSHA provides a free on-site consultation program for small and medium-sized companies. It is separate from the administration’s inspection effort and helps employers identify workplace hazards, provide advice and guidance on compliance and establishing safety and health programs.

Each local OSHA office has a Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS) to respond to requests for assistance from employers and other groups. The CAS can present seminars and workshops as well as promote OSHA’s cooperative programs. OSHA also provides assistance through their Diverse Workforce/Limited English Proficiency Coordinators.

For more information on OSHA, the OSH Act, or a specific standard, visit the OSHA online here.

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