OSHA Frequently Asked Questions

Employer Assistance

I have a question about how OSHA rules apply to a specific situation at my business. How can I get answers?

If you have questions about OSHA regulations relating to your specific situation, call your local OSHA office directly or submit a question by email. You can also view OSHA's letters of interpretation, which are formal explanations of OSHA's requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances.

What OSHA requirements should I follow when starting a business?

Under the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees regardless of the size of business. Employers must comply with OSHA standards under the OSH Act.

Does OSHA offer free help for my business to comply with regulations?

OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the U.S., with priority given to high-hazard worksites. The Consultation Program is completely separate from the OSHA inspection effort, and employers can find out about potential hazards at their workplace, improve programs that are already in place, and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections. No citations or penalties are issued and the employer's only obligation is to correct serious job safety and health hazards.

In addition, OSHA's Area Offices provide advice, education, and assistance to businesses (particularly small employers), trade associations, local labor affiliates, and other stakeholders who request help with occupational safety and health issues. We work with professional organizations, unions, and community groups concerning issues of safety and health in the workplace.

Are employers required to  provide safety training to  employees?

Many OSHA standards require that employers train employees to ensure they have the required skills and knowledge to safely do their work. See Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Resource for Development and Delivery of Training to Workers for more information.

Am I required to prepare and maintain recordkeeping records?

Employers with more than ten employees and whose establishments are not classified as a partially exempt industry must record work-related injuries and illnesses using OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301.

Partially exempt industries include establishments in specific low hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industries and are listed in Appendix A to Subpart B.

Employers who are required to keep Form 300, the Injury and Illness log, must post Form 300A, the summary of Work-related Injuries and Illnesses in their workplace every year from February 1 to April 30. Current and former employees, or their representatives, have the right to access injury and illness records. Employers must give the requester a copy of the relevant record(s) by the end of the next business day.

For more information, visit OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements.

What is recordable under OSHA's Recordkeeping Regulation?

For answers on what is recordable under OSHA regulations, see the recordkeeping Q and A search. Also keep in mind the following:

  • Covered employers must record all work-related fatalities;
  • Covered employers must record all work-related injuries and illnesses that result in days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, loss of consciousness or medical treatment beyond first aid;
  • Employers must record significant work-related injuries or illnesses diagnoses by a physician or other licensed health care professional, even if it does not result in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness;
  • OSHA's definition of work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities are those in which an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the condition. In addition, if an event or exposure in the work environment significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness, this is also considered work-related.
    • Injuries include cases such as, but not limited to, a cut, fracture, sprain, or amputation;
    • Illnesses include both acute and chronic illnesses, such as, but not limited to, a skin disease (i.e. contact dermatitis), respiratory disorder (i.e. occupational asthma, pneumoconiosis), or poisoning (i.e. lead poisoning, solvent intoxication).

For more information, visit OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements or Detailed Guidance for OSHA's Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule.

Information for Workers

If my workplace is unsafe, what can I do?

If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, we recommend that you bring the conditions to your employer's attention. At any time, a worker may file a complaint with OSHA to report a hazardous working condition and request an inspection. If the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm and there is not enough time for OSHA to inspect, the worker may have a legal right to refuse to work.

How can I get an OSHA inspector to my workplace to evaluate unsafe practices?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives employees and their representatives the right to file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection of their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or their employer is not following OSHA standards. Workers do not have to know whether a specific OSHA standard has been violated in order to file a complaint.

Who can file a complaint and what are the steps?

Workers or their representatives may file a complaint online or by phone, mail, email or fax with the local OSHA office and request an inspection of a workplace if they believe there is a violation of a safety or health standard, or if there is any danger that threatens physical harm. A worker may also ask OSHA not to reveal his or her name. In addition, anyone who knows about a workplace safety or health hazard may report unsafe conditions to OSHA, and OSHA will investigate the concerns reported.

What should I do if I've been fired or punished for reporting safety or health concerns?

If a worker believes an employer has retaliated against them for exercising their safety and health rights, they should contact their local OSHA office right away. A whistleblower complaint must be filed with OSHA within 30 calendar days from when the retaliatory decision was made and communicated to the worker. OSHA will accept a complaint in any language. Call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or contact your local OSHA office.

Has my employer ever been cited by OSHA?

You can research your employer's inspection history through OSHA's establishment search. Type in the name of your company and choose the dates you want to cover.

Can my employer stop me from seeing injury or illness records?

No. Current and former employees, or their representatives, have the right to access injury and illness records. Employers must give the requester a copy of the relevant record(s) by the end of the next business day.

Training and Certifications

What are OSHA's training requirements for forklifts or powered industrial trucks?

Many OSHA standards require that employers train employees to work safely and to recognize and avoid hazards. The training must be provided in a language that employees understand. See Training Requirements in OSHA Standards for more information.

OSHA requires employers to develop and implement a training program based on the general principles of safe truck operation, the types of vehicles being used in the workplace, the hazards of the workplace created by the use of the vehicles, and the general safety requirements of the OSHA standard. Trained operators must know how to do the job properly and safely as demonstrated by workplace evaluation. Formal (lecture, video, etc.) and practical (demonstration and practical exercises) training must be provided.

Employers must also certify that each operator has received the training and evaluate each operator at least once every three years. Prior to operating the truck in the workplace, the employer must evaluate the operator's performance and determine the operator to be competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely. Refresher training is needed whenever an operator demonstrates a deficiency in the safe operation of the truck.

Where do I find information on OSHA courses on specific hazards such as hazardous materials, confined spaces or fall protection?

The OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers offer courses on topics such as hazardous materials, machine guarding, ergonomics, confined space, excavation, electrical hazards, and fall protection. OTI Education Center courses also offer industry-specific courses that align with OSHA National Emphasis Programs (NEP), such as the oil and gas industry, nursing homes, and crane hazards. There are a number of one-day seminars in subject areas such as safety and health management, recordkeeping, health care ergonomic guidelines, accident investigation, and emergency evacuation for students unable to attend the full-week courses but who would like to benefit from the training curriculum. See additional answers on OSHA courses.

Outreach training: How can I get an OSHA card?

OSHA-authorized trainers issue student course completion cards to individuals who successfully complete an OSHA Outreach Training Program class. The Outreach Training Program offers 10-hour or 30-hour classes for Construction, General industry, Maritime, and a 15-hour class for Disaster Site Worker. To obtain an OSHA card, an individual must attend and successfully complete the entire class, including all requisite topics and the minimum number of contact hours.

The training courses do not meet the training requirements for any OSHA standards. An OSHA card is not considered a certification or license and is not required by OSHA. However, some states have enacted laws mandating the training. Some employers, unions, organizations or other jurisdictions may also require this training.

See additional answers on the OSHA Outreach Training Program.

Outreach training: Where can I get a replacement 10-Hour or 30-Hour Card?

OSHA does not maintain student records for training conducted by other organizations or by authorized Outreach trainers. To obtain transcripts or copies of course completion documents such as student course completion cards, you must contact the original training provider. Only one replacement card may be issued per student per class, and a fee may be charged by the Authorizing Training Organization to replace a course completion card.

If the training occurred longer than five years ago or you cannot locate the trainer, you must retake the class to receive a new card.

Outreach training: Can I get the OSHA 10-hour card online?

Yes, you can receive the OSHA 10-hour or other Outreach Training Program classes online through OSHA-authorized independent training providers.

If you have technical issues or customer service concerns related to your online Outreach Training Program classes, you should contact the online training provider directly to resolve the matter. If the online training provider is unable to resolve the matter, you may forward your concern to OSHA by email at outreach@dol.gov by providing specific information about the issue and all relevant communication between you and the online training provider.

Outreach Training Program trainers are required to issue student course completion cards directly to the student within 90 days of class completion. If you completed an Outreach Training Program 10- or 30-hour class and did not receive your completion card within 90 days, contact your Outreach trainer.

Outreach training: How do I become a certified OSHA instructor for 10-hour and 30-hour cards?

OSHA authorizes Outreach trainers to conduct occupational safety and health awareness training through the OSHA Outreach Training Program. Individuals who meet the course prerequisites and complete a one-week OSHA trainer course receive a certificate of completion and an authorized Outreach trainer card. Outreach trainer courses include disaster site workers (second responders), construction, general industry, or maritime. Upon successful completion of the trainer course, Outreach trainers are authorized to teach classes based on the trainer course subject area. These include a 15-hour course for disaster site workers (second responders), as well as 10- and 30-hour Outreach training classes in construction, general industry, or maritime safety and health hazards. _Authorized Outreach trainers are responsible for distributing OSHA class completion cards to trainees who successfully complete the class.

The OSHA Outreach Training Program is a voluntary program. The training courses do not meet the training requirements for any OSHA standards. However, some states have enacted laws mandating the training. Some employers, unions, organizations or other jurisdictions may also require this training.

Can I open an OSHA training center in another country?

OSHA is a federal regulatory agency which covers private sector employers and their employees in the U.S. and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. OSHA training programs such as the OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center program and the Outreach Training Program are for workers covered under the agency's jurisdiction. OSHA courses for the general public, including online courses, are only offered in training locations within the agency's jurisdiction. There is no international OSHA training program.


For Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19, please see the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page.

Drinking Water, Restroom Use, Sanitation

Are employers required to provide drinking water?

OSHA Standards require an employer to provide potable water in the workplace and permit employees to drink it. Potable water includes tap water that is safe for drinking. Employers cannot require employees to pay for water that is provided. An employer does not have to provide bottled water if potable water is available. See OSHA's sanitation standard for more information.

Can an employer restrict restroom use?

OSHA's Sanitation standard requires that employers make toilet facilities available so that employees can use them when they need to. The employer may not impose unreasonable restrictions on employee use of the facilities. For more information, see the restrooms page.

What is my employer required to do if there are bugs or rodents at my workplace?

OSHA's sanitation standard requires that employers construct, equip, and maintain their workplaces to prevent rodents and insects from entering, and if they are discovered, an effective extermination program must be implemented.

Employer responsibilities for controlling vermin can be found in the sanitation standard, which covers vermin control at permanent places of employment; for temporary labor camps in general industry; and for construction.

Hazardous Chemicals

What is required on a safety data sheet (SDS)?

The hazard communication standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide safety data sheets (SDSs) (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDSs) for each hazardous chemical they produce or import to communicate the hazards of hazardous chemical products. The requirements on the safety data sheet (SDS) include a uniform format and specific section numbers, headings, and associated information. See the hazard communication page for more information.

What pictograms are required in the revised Hazard Communication Standard?

There are nine pictograms under the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) to convey the health, physical and environmental hazards. The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, as environmental hazards are not within OSHA's jurisdiction.

What are the requirements for labels under the Hazard Communication Standard?

Under the hazard communication standard (HCS), the label preparer must provide the identity of the chemical and the appropriate hazard warnings. The format of the label may be done in a variety of ways and is left to the preparer to decide. Once the hazard classification is completed, the standard specifies what information is to be provided for each hazard class and category. Labels will require the following elements:

  • Pictogram: a symbol plus other graphic elements, such as a border, background pattern, or color that is intended to convey specific information about the hazards of a chemical. Each pictogram consists of a different symbol on a white background within a red square frame set on a point (i.e. a red diamond). There are nine pictograms under the GHS. However, only eight pictograms are required under the HCS.
  • Signal words: a single word used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. The signal words used are "danger" and "warning." "Danger" is used for the more severe hazards, while "warning" is used for less severe hazards.
  • Hazard Statement: a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard.
  • Precautionary Statement: a phrase that describes recommended measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical, or improper storage or handling of a hazardous chemical.

Indoor Air Quality

If I think there is an indoor air quality problem at work, what can I do?

Employers are required to follow the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires them to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury. Employers should be reasonably aware of the possible sources of poor air quality, and they should have the resources necessary to recognize and control workplace hazards. It is also their responsibility to inform employees of the immediate dangers that are present.

For more information, see NIOSH's Health Hazard Evaluation Program.

You can also contact your local OSHA Office or file a safety and health complaint and OSHA will keep your information confidential.

What should I do if I am being exposed to chemicals, dust or other hazards?

OSHA does not have a specific indoor air quality (IAQ) standard for construction or general industry activities, but does provide guidelines addressing the most common workplace complaints about IAQ. These are typically related to temperature, humidity, lack of outside air ventilation, or smoking. OSHA standards address potential hazardous conditions leading to serious physical harm or death. Such standards may include those for specific air contaminants, ventilation systems, or the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act).

For guidelines and additional information on this subject, see OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page on Indoor Air Quality and Frequently Asked Questions about Indoor Air Quality.

Does OSHA regulate cigarette smoking in the workplace?

OSHA does not have a regulation that addresses smoking in the workplace except for a limited number of regulations that address smoking and other sources of ignition from a fire safety perspective.

If I think I am getting sick at work because of mold, what should my employer do?

Employers are required to follow the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires them to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury.

OSHA has a number of guidance documents that employers can use to assist them in hazard recognition, detection, control and clean-up of mold. In general the best way to control mold is to identify and control the source or sources of moisture. Once the employer controls the source or sources of moisture, they can ensure the mold-bearing material can either be cleaned or removed. For further information on this subject, see OSHA's Molds Safety and Health Topics page.

Injury Tracking Application

Visit the Injury Tracking Application page for frequently asked questions about ITA.

Personal Protective Equipment

What types of protective equipment is my employer required to provide to me and do I have to pay for it?

Many OSHA standards require employers to provide personal protective equipment to protect them from job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. These typically include: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment and fall protection equipment. See OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment web page for more information.

What are the requirements for fit-testing of respirators?

A fit test is a method used to select the right size respirator for the user. Fit testing of all negative or positive pressure tight-fitting facepiece respirators is required prior to initial use, whenever a different respirator facepiece is used, and at least annually thereafter. An additional fit test is required whenever there are changes in the user's physical condition that could affect respirator fit (e.g., facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight). The employee must be fit tested with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator that will be used. See frequently asked questions on respiratory protection or the safety and health topics page on respiratory protection.


Visit the Recordkeeping page for frequently asked questions about recordkeeping.

Temperature and Weather-Related

Are employers required to take steps to protect workers in extreme outdoor heat?

Employers are responsible for protecting workers from temperature extremes and should establish a complete heat illness prevention program if workers are exposed to conditions that can cause heat illness. Elements of an effective program include: providing workers with water, rest and shade; gradually increasing workloads and allow more frequent breaks for new workers to build a tolerance for working in the heat (acclimatization); modify work schedules as necessary; plan for emergencies and train workers about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention; and monitor workers for signs of illness. For more information see OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention Campaign page.

What can I do if my indoor workplace is too hot or cold?

OSHA does not require employers to provide heat or air conditioning for work spaces. OSHA does recommend temperature control in the range of 68-76°F. The qualities of good indoor air quality (IAQ) should include comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of fresh outdoor air and control of pollutants from inside and outside of the building. Employers are responsible for protecting workers from temperature extremes. For additional information on this subject, see frequently asked questions about indoor air quality.

Wages, Hours Worked, Workers' Compensation

Wages, Hours Worked, Workers' Compensation, Food Safety

OSHA regulates worker safety and health in the workplace. For questions about wages, hours worked and workers' compensation, please see applicable links. For questions about food safety for consumers, restaurant food inspections, or licensing of restaurants and grocery stores, please contact your local or county health department.

Working Alone

Am I required to work alone in a dangerous environment?

There is no general OSHA Standard that deals with the situation of an employee "working alone" except in specific situations such as emergency response, interior structural firefighting, or working in permit required confined spaces. Employers are encouraged to develop emergency procedures, such as providing a wireless electronic notification device and/or cell phone to those employees, but those are recommendations and not typically enforceable.

Workplace Violence

What do I do if there is a violent environment at my workplace?

Although OSHA has no specific standard on workplace violence, workers have a right to a safe workplace. Your employer must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. If you have concerns, you have the right to speak up about them without fear of retaliation. You can also contact your local OSHA Office or file a safety and health complaint and OSHA will keep your information confidential.

In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.

For more information, see OSHA's workplace violence page.

If you can't find the answer to your question on this page, check our A - Z Index or Ask OSHA.