Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Retraining "at least annually"

Dear Mr. Skinner:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. You requested clarification on OSHA's interpretation of acceptable time lapse for "annual" training.

Scenario: Various OSHA standards address frequency of employee training. Some standards are very explicit on frequency, stating "no later than 12 months from the date of the previous training," while others simply state that training must be performed "at least annually."

Question: Could you please clarify OSHA's interpretation of training requirements and what is expected when training must be conducted "at least annually"?

Reply: You are correct in stating that the language may vary in certain OSHA standards. However, wherever OSHA standards require that employee training be conducted "at least annually," OSHA interprets that to mean that employees must be provided re-training at least once every 12 months (i.e., within a time period not exceeding 365 days.) This annual training need not be performed on the exact anniversary date of the preceding training, but should be provided on a date reasonably close to the anniversary date taking into consideration the company's and the employees' convenience in scheduling. If the annual training cannot be completed by the anniversary date, the employer should maintain a record indicating why the training has been delayed and when the training will be provided.

Please keep in mind that the term "at least annually" is generally regarded as indicating that circumstances which warrant more frequent training may occur. It is extremely important that employees are trained to protect themselves from all known workplace hazards, including new hazards which may result from changes in workplace practices, procedures, or tasks. For example, OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard at 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2)(v), provides for "additional training when changes such as modification of tasks or procedures or institution of new tasks or procedures affect the employee's occupation exposure." More frequent training may also be required when employee performance suggests that the prior training was incomplete or not fully understood.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking and apologize for any confusion the earlier documents may have caused. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you may consult OSHA's website at
http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

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