Monday, November 28, 2011

Don’t Overlook OSHA’s “Unscheduled” Refresher Training Requirements

When I conduct mock-OSHA inspections for companies, we spend a lot of time focusing on their employee safety training efforts. What we typically find is that most employers provide a new employee safety orientation to get the newbies up to speed on the mandatory OSHA topics (and more). And most employers also schedule annual refresher training on topics mandated by OSHA. And the safety managers that have a more progressive safety program also remember to provide additional training when a new hazard/procedure/piece of equipment is introduced into the workplace. However, there is one other category of required OSHA training that get overlooked all too often; the “unscheduled” refresher training!

Did you know there are more than 80 individual OSHA general industry standards that specifically require the employer to provide “initial” training to affected employees? And out of those standards, approximately 35 also require refresher training, usually on an annual basis. However, there are also 10 or so of those OSHA standards that have one additional training requirement; they mandate re-training for an employee on applicable topics in any instance where that employee indicates (usually through his or her behavior) that they did not adequately grasp or retain the training that has already been provided.  Here are five examples of the kind of OSHA standards I am talking about:

* Personal Protective Equipment / 1910.132(f)(3) - When the employer has reason to believe that any affected employee who has already been trained does not have the understanding and skill required by paragraph (f)(2) of this section, the employer shall retrain each such employee . . .

* Respiratory Protection / 1910.134(k)(5) - Retraining shall be administered annually, and when the following situations occur:

(ii) Inadequacies in the employee's knowledge or use of the respirator indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill;

* Permit-required Confined Spaces / 1910.146(g)(2) -  Training shall be provided to each affected employee:

(iv) Whenever the employer has reason to believe either that there are deviations from the permit space entry procedures required by paragraph (d)(3) of this section or that there are inadequacies in the employee's knowledge or use of these procedures.

* Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout-Tagout) / 1910.147(c)(7)(iii)(B) - Additional retraining shall also be conducted whenever a periodic inspection under paragraph (c)(6) of this section reveals, or whenever the employer has reason to believe that there are deviations from or inadequacies in the employee's knowledge or use of the energy control procedures.

* Powered Industrial Trucks / 1910.178(l)(4)(ii) - Refresher training in relevant topics shall be provided to the operator when:

(A) - The operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner;

(B) - The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident;

(C) - The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely;

Complying with these additional “unscheduled” re-training requirements can be much more difficult to manage than new employee orientations and annual refreshers. In fact, the safety manager may not even be aware that an incident has occurred that triggers one of these additional refresher training requirements. But there are ways of helping you stay on top of this.  

Review your injury and illness reports (including near-miss reports), first aid logs, safety inspection records, and safety committee minutes often, with an eye towards detecting incidents that indicate an employee may have deviated from proper procedures, or that they did not fully understand (or perhaps forgot) the training they had previously received. It’s also helpful to educate all company managers and supervisors of the need to bring to the attention of the safety manager any incidents that indicate inadequacies in worker knowledge, and then ensure mandatory re-training is provided and documented.

I bring these examples up because the more savvy OSHA compliance officers will try and get a look at these records, and also interview employees and supervisors, in an effort to single out incidents that require the additional training. And then they will check your training records to see whether or not refresher training was conducted.

By the way, there are similar re-training requirements appearing in a few other OSHA general industry standards in addition to the ones I listed above, including:  1910.119, 1910.177, 1910.269, 1910.1043, and 1910.1052. There are several construction and maritime standards that contain such re-training requirements as well.

So keep an eye out for any clue that indicates that an employee’s previous safety training may not have been fully effective, and then provide (and document) the additional re-training needed to address the deficiencies. And take a minute to read my related blog post if you have a behavior-based safety program, as the critical behaviors you select for observation can be impacted by these standards as well.

While it takes some extra effort to stay in compliance with OSHA’s “unscheduled” training requirements, it may save you some headaches during your next OSHA inspection. More importantly, the payback can be life-saving.

Are you aware of another OSHA regulation that I did not list that specifies unscheduled re-training? Or perhaps you have a story to share about an incident that demonstrates how you became aware of the need to provide this extra training? If so, or if you have other related comments about this topic, please share your knowledge with others by entering it into the comments section below.

And please, pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.


  1. Thanks Curtis. Good information to review. Fortunately for me, unscheduled training happens on regular intervals because I have to perform field observations and they provide the basis for these training opportunities.

    Celina Johnson

  2. This site is really so resourceful. I re-comment it to my fellow learner.



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