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 can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

May 7, 1998

Paul W. Jonmaire, Ph.D.
Corporate Health & Safety Director
Ecology and Environment, Inc.
368 Pleasant View Drive
Lancaster, NY 14086

Dear Dr. Jonmaire:

This is in further response to your letter of march 4, 1998, concerning refresher training in accordance with paragraph (e)(8) of 29 CFR 1910.120, Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER). I apologize for the delay in responding to your letter.

Your first question concerns the adequacy of sending employees to outside commercial organizations for refresher training. Specifically you ask, "Is an outside trainer obligated to provide employer-specific information when required by paragraph (e)(8)?" The employer (not the outside trainer) has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that employees' HAZWOPER refresher training meets the requirements and to decide how to meet the employer-specific information required by paragraph (e)(8).

Employers have various options for meeting these responsibilities. One possible option is for the employer to contract with an outside commercial trainer to design a course specifically for employees and hazards at a particular site. Another option is for the employer to supplement outside training with site-specific training. The employer can supplement the commercial training by holding a site-specific session at a later date, so long as all portions of required training (including commercial training and the site-specific session) are completed prior to the employee's training anniversary date. Another option is for the employer to provide refresher training during on-site health and safety briefings, which may occur at intervals throughout the year. With this option, the accumulated hours may count toward the 8-hour HAZWOPER refresher training requirement provided that the information covered meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(8). In preparing the site-specific session or any other portions of the required training, the employer may want to consult Paragraph A.2. under the heading "Suggested Training Curriculum Guidelines" of non-mandatory Appendix E of HAZWOPER, which provides guidance on refresher training topics.

You also asked in your letter, "How should the critique of incidents be presented since the commercial trainer does not have the experience base of all the employers whose employees are present in the commercial class?" Again, the determination of how training is provided to employees is left to the employer. The critique of incidents, however, could be discussed during the site-specific training or the on-site health and safety briefings mentioned above.

Your second inquiry is whether refresher training concerning medical surveillance is to be presented generically or whether company-specific medical surveillance requirements that are part of the employer's safety and health program required by paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(E) are to be provided. Medical surveillance requirements must include company-specific/site-specific information. The basis for the company-specific/site-specific information is contained in the medical surveillance training requirement in paragraph (e)(2), which requires employers to instruct employees on how to recognize "symptoms and signs of over exposure to hazards" on the job and make them aware of specific parts of the site safety and health plan. The medical surveillance topics of HAZWOPER refresher training should include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A review of "symptoms and signs of overexposure to hazards" on the job
  • The provisions of the medical surveillance program at the job site
  • Updates to the above information as needed
  • The purpose and intent of the medical surveillance program, which is a benefit to employees and is designed to protect the employees' health.

You also asked, "If the commercial trainer fails to provide any of the aforementioned employer- specific information, how should it be conveyed to the employees (e.g. in writing or verbally)?" Again, it is up to the employer to determine how to convey the information; written or verbal training or a combination thereof are all acceptable forms of training.

Lastly, you asked, "What additional documentation is required to satisfy the agency?" The employer should document in the employee's file the successful completion of the required refresher training. The form of the documentation is up to the employer and may be a certificate, a letter, a memo, or other written documentation; the documentation must include the date(s) of completion of the training. If the refresher training does not take place by the anniversary date of the employee's initial training, there should be a record in the employee's file indicating why the training has been delayed and when the training will be completed. Note that OSHA does not rely solely on this documentation in assessing compliance with the standard. OSHA compliance officers apply professional judgement and utilize employee and employer interviews, and observation of work practices to determine whether employers have met the intent of the standard that workers have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their assigned duties without danger to themselves or others.

OSHA's ultimate concern is that workers are competent to perform their assigned duties. This is achieved through initial HAZWOPER training, annual refresher training, and informational programs that are required in paragraph (i) of the standard. It is beneficial for employers to assess the training needs of workers on an ongoing basis and adjust both training schedules and training topics accordingly.

I hope this information is useful to you. If you need any further clarification of this letter, please contact Ms. MaryAnn Garrahan of my staff at (202) 693-2190.

Sincerely,

John B. Miles, Jr.
Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs