Unlocking Compliance: Mastering OSHA Safety Training Requirements

By Rob Eckwall on Apr 01, 2024
3 min read 1 Comment

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No matter your industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) imposes workplace regulations that nearly every private-sector small business must follow. This pivotal law was established to guarantee a secure working environment for all U.S. employees, emphasizing the importance of safety across a wide spectrum of professions.

Small business safety is intrinsically linked to mandatory OSHA safety training requirements for employees. While the specific OSHA safety training requirements depend on the nature of the work, OSHA's overarching goal is to ensure that small business owners equip their employees with the essential skills and knowledge to perform their jobs safely.

Not all businesses are held to the same standards—those with fewer than 10 employees and certain low-risk industries may be exempt from some regulations. However, adhering to general safe work practices is recommended to maintain a secure workplace.

This includes educating every staff member, including new hires, about potential workplace hazards and how to mitigate these risks effectively. OSHA advocates for training in languages and vocabularies that workers can understand, highlighting the critical role of education in any comprehensive workplace safety program.

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Understanding Key OSHA Safety Training Requirements

More than 100 of OSHA’s current standards include training requirements. While it’s every employer’s responsibility to understand and comply with all OSHA safety training requirements, we’ll summarize the two most common ones below. 

Emergency Action Plans 

Emergency action plans describe evacuation procedures in case of fire or other disasters, such as explosions, toxic chemical spills, hurricanes, floods, blizzards and tornadoes. They should contain workplace floorplans, maps showing where exits are located and directions for how employees should vacate the workplace in a crisis. Emergency preparedness plans also provide tips for where to take cover within a building if leaving is not possible. 

OSHA requires employers not only to have such plans but also to designate and train employees to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of others. Employers must review their emergency action plans with each employee governed by the plan when it is first developed, when the employee is initially assigned to a job, when an employee’s responsibilities under the plan change and when the plan is revised. 

RELATED: Expect more Inspections: OSHA's Emphasis on Workplace Falls Prevention >>

Hazardous Materials 

Employees who work with flammable liquids, explosives, toxic substances or hazardous chemicals must receive regular training, including periodic refresher courses, on those materials’ safe storage and use.

OSHA requires the training to thoroughly cover elements such as: 

  • The safety and health hazards present on site
  • Use of personal protective equipment 
  • Work practices that minimize risks from hazards and  
  • Medical surveillance guidelines, such as what symptoms and signs could indicate someone has been overexposed to workplace hazards.  

All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare labels and safety data sheets for exposed workers and train them to appropriately handle the substances and practice associated protective measures. For more information, refer to OSHA’s Hazard Communication page.  

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The Risks of Non-Compliance with OSHA Requirements 

OSHA compliance protects both employees and employers. Small businesses that fall short of OSHA’s safety training requirements could face significant financial consequences. Besides incurring OSHA penalty costs, they can be held legally responsible for employees harmed at work. That means not only covering fines but also paying litigation or settlement costs for claims brought by injured workers. 

Deciphering all of OSHA’s safety training requirements is a time-consuming and confusing process, but one that is necessary to protect employees’ health and well-being, which benefits everyone.  

And, while it’s not always federally mandated, businesses should maintain detailed records of their safety and health training activities. Besides proving that an employer is following OSHA’s safety training requirements, this documentation also can answer one of the first questions an OSHA incident investigator will ask after a workplace injury occurs, which is, “Did the employee receive adequate training to do the job?” 

Axcet HR Solutions, a certified professional employer organization, handles critical HR tasks like OSHA compliance for small to medium-sized businesses. We’ve been providing peace of mind for clients since 1988 by helping them institute best HR practices that limit legal exposure, create engaged employees and focus on growth.

Schedule a consultation to learn how you can benefit from our HR and safety expertise. 

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Written by Rob Eckwall

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