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 https://www.osha.gov.


January 15, 1999

Ms. Nancy Wicklin, RN, MS
Synquest Technologies
Two Hanover Square
434 Fayetteville Street Mall,
Suite 2330
Raleigh, NC 27601

Dear Ms. Wicklin:

This is in response to your letter of December 7, 1998, addressed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Office of Health Compliance Assistance (OHCA), regarding training requirements in 29 CFR 1910.1030, the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens rule. Your company offers interactive computer courses to clients. You've requested that we provide a letter that restates OSHA's policy on the issue of whether or not the trainer must be physically present in the room when employees are taking a training course on-line.

During training, it is critical that trainees have an opportunity to ask and receive answers to questions where material is unfamiliar to them. Frequently, a trainee may be unable to go further with the training or to understand related training content until a response is received. OSHA has previously stated that a training provider can meet OSHA's requirement for trainees to have direct access to a qualified trainer by providing a telephone hotline. The trainer must be accessible to employees during training.

While you have not stated in what manner you currently provide trainers to your clients, for your information, it is OSHA's policy that using the E-mail system to answer employee questions is not considered to be direct access to a qualified trainer, unless the trainer is available to answer e-mailed questions at the time the questions arise. This is essential since a trainee may require an interactive discussion with the trainer to clarify the question or to ask additional questions. Therefore, if access to a qualified trainer is provided through E-mail, the trainer must be available for an interactive on-line exchange whenever a trainee question arises. A "timely manner," in this case, means at the time the question arises.

Please note that the North Carolina Department of Labor is operating its own occupational and health program under a plan approved and closely monitored by Federal OSHA. Compliance enforcement of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard in North Carolina may differ from that of Federal OSHA as States standards may be different from but at least as strict as Federal OSHA's. The State enforces these standards for the private sector and city, county, and state employees. If you wish to pursue this matter further with the state of North Carolina, you may contact:


[Mailing Address:
North Carolina Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Division
1101 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1101
(919) 733-7166]



I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact [OSHA's Office of Health Enforcement] at (202) 693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax

[Corrected 4/6/2009]