- Standard Number:
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.
October 24, 2005
Thank you for your September 25, 2003 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning training requirements under OSHA's Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) standard, 29 CFR 1910.147, and OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. 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. We apologize for the delay in our response.
Your paraphrased scenarios, questions, and our responses are provided below.
Scenario: Several years ago, we had a rather comprehensive training session on lockout/tagout. Since that time, a significant number of employees have been reassigned and presently work with different machines. The employees exposed to new machinery have never been trained on how to properly lock out that machinery. We receive a generalized training session once a year during our 1-hour, routine monthly meeting. However, this meeting is not specific to lockout/tagout and includes discussion on Behavior Based Safety, tracking our safety record against targeted safety numbers, and various other topics.
In addition, I have assisted in developing the lockout/tagout procedures for machinery in a new department. Copies of the procedures were distributed to the maintenance employees. However, there has never been any discussion of the procedures. The company has never insured that these employees had a total understanding of these procedures.
Question 1: Is it acceptable to merely distribute copies of lockout/tagout procedures and consider that to be lockout/tagout training? If not, what are the general criteria for lockout/tagout training?
Response: The scenario that you provided appears to address "authorized" employees because the employees in your scenario are locking out equipment and presumably engaging in servicing/maintenance activities. An "authorized" employee is a person who locks out or tags out machines or equipment in order to perform servicing or maintenance work. Paragraph 1910.147(c)(7)(i)(A) of the Lockout/Tagout standard requires that "[e]ach authorized employee shall receive training in the recognition of all potentially hazardous energy sources, the type and magnitude of energy in the workplace, and the methods and means necessary for energy isolation and control." The mere distribution of lockout/tagout procedures will not meet the training requirements of the Lockout/Tagout standard for such employees. Instead, the employer must provide training that will allow each authorized employee to understand the purpose and function of the employer's energy control program and will allow each authorized employee to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to safely apply, use, and remove his/her lockout or tagout device (or its equivalent) and take other necessary steps so as to effectively isolate hazardous energy in every situation in which he/she performs servicing or maintenance activities.
In addition, it appears from your scenario that there have been changes at the worksite that may require additional or supplemental training in order to assure that authorized employees, who may have received adequate training at some point, are able to effectively and safely control hazardous energy in the environment(s) in which they are presently working. While the information contained in your letter does not permit us to determine conclusively whether the changes have occurred at the worksite that would necessitate additional or supplemental training, authorized employees must receive additional or supplemental training when they are exposed to new or additional sources of hazardous energy that are associated with their new work assignments. Likewise, authorized employees must receive additional or supplemental training when using different methods to control the same hazardous energy sources that they have controlled in other contexts. Ultimately, authorized employees must possess the skills and knowledge necessary to understand all relevant provisions of the energy control procedure(s) in order to effectively isolate all sources of hazardous energy to which they (or others) otherwise may be exposed. If prior training is insufficient to allow an authorized employee to follow an energy control procedure and to protect him/herself when servicing or maintaining a machine or piece of equipment, the employer is obligated to provide additional or supplemental training adequate to permit such proficiency.
Scenario: During the first year of my employment, we had an 8-hour training session on hazard communication. Since then, we have received refreshers during our monthly safety meetings. In our September meeting, we received a copy of a new MSDS, and there wasn't any discussion pertaining to the MSDS. We have had at least 60 employees hired since our first hazardous communication training; they have received only refresher training.
Question 2: Is it acceptable merely to distribute copies of MSDSs and consider that to be training? If not, what are the criteria for training?
Response: OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (HCS) contains the required, minimum elements in an employee information and training program. See, 29 CFR 1910.1200(h). Employers must provide training on hazardous chemicals in an employee's work area when the employee receives his/her initial work assignment and whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into the employee's work area. The HCS training requirements are not satisfied by merely providing employees with copies of MSDSs.
Appendix A of the Compliance Directive for Hazard Communication, CPL 2-2.38D explicitly provides that "[t]he training provisions of the HCS are not satisfied solely by giving employees the [material safety] data sheets to read. An employer's training program is to be a forum for explaining to employees, not only the hazards of the chemicals in their work area, but also how to use the information generated in the hazard communication program. This can be accomplished in many ways (audio visual, classroom instruction, interactive video), and should include an opportunity for employees to ask questions to ensure that they understand the information presented to them."
The HCS directive, which is available on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov, also provides additional information concerning an employer's obligation to provide employee training under the HCS. Other useful information pertaining to the Hazard Communication standard can be found at: http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/solutions.html.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. 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. 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 www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at 202-693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs