Small Business Guide to OSHA Compliance
Regardless of size, all businesses should make every effort insure a safe workplace for their employees. When Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) they made it clear that their intention was to ensure that every working individual in the nation would have healthful and safe working conditions. Nearly all workplaces must comply with OSHA. Hospitals, offices of charities, private schools, labor unions, restaurants, construction companies, law firms, manufacturers and many more types of businesses must follow OSHA’s regulations.
Under OSHA regulations, employers are required to:
- Comply with and be familiar with applicable standards.
- Maintain practices that keep workers reasonably safe on the job.
- Make sure employees are provided with necessary protective equipment when applicable.
This is part of the General Duty clause. When OSHA acts on the clause, there must be four elements present:
- There must be a hazard.
- The hazard has to be recognized.
- The hazard is likely to cause serious injuries or death.
- It must be possible to correct the hazard.
Since it is difficult for OSHA to make rules, the division mostly focuses on mechanical and chemical hazards instead of procedural tasks. They currently focus on falls, electrical hazards, toxic substances, digging trenches, infectious diseases, hazardous waste, explosion dangers and machine hazards.
Small Business Owners Guide to OSHA Compliance
Nobody wants accidents to happen in his or her business. A serious fire, a permanent injury, or the death of an employee or owner can cause the loss of profit or even an entire business. To prevent such losses, you don’t have to turn your business upside down. You may not have to spend a lot of money, either. You do need to use good business sense and apply recognized prevention principles.
There are reasons why accidents happen. Something goes wrong somewhere. It may take some thought, and maybe the help of friends or other trained people, to figure out what went wrong, but an accident always has a cause-a reason why. Once you know why an accident happened, it is possible to prevent future incidents. You need some basic facts and perhaps some help from others who already know some of the answers. You also need a plan-a plan to prevent accidents.
Not all dangers at your worksite depend on an accident to cause harm, of course. Worker exposure to toxic chemicals or harmful levels of noise or radiation may happen in conjunction with routine work as well as by accident. You may not realize the extent of the exposure or harm that you and your employees face. The effect may not be immediate. You need a plan that includes prevention of these health hazard exposures and accidents. You need a safety and health management system.
It is not difficult to develop such a plan. Basically, your plan should address the types of accidents and health hazard exposures that could happen in your workplace. Because each workplace is different, your program should address your specific needs and requirements.
There are four basic elements to all good safety and health programs. These are as follows:
- Management Commitment and Employee Involvement. The manager or management team leads the way, by setting policy, assigning and supporting responsibility, setting an example and involving employees.
- Worksite Analysis. The worksite is continually analyzed to identify all existing and potential hazards.
- Hazard Prevention and Control. Methods to prevent or control existing or potential hazards are put in place and maintained.
- Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers. Managers, supervisors and employees are trained to understand and deal with worksite hazards.
Regardless of the size of your business, you should use each of these elements to prevent workplace accidents and possible injuries and illnesses.
Developing a workplace program following these four points is a key step in protecting you and your workers’ safety and health. If you already have a program, reviewing it in relation to these elements should help you improve what you have.
If your company had ten or fewer employees at all times during the last calendar year, you do not need to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics informs you in writing that you must keep records. Other small businesses with more than 10 employees may also be exempt from the programmed inspections. This applies to certain “low-hazard industries” identified by OSHA.
If an employee dies due to a work-related injury, an employer must report the death to OSHA within eight hours. This is also true if there are three or more workers hospitalized as a result of a workplace accident. Workplace injuries must always be reported in a timely manner. Reports must be kept on file for five years following an injury. Any on-the-job heart attacks must also be reported immediately. It is important for employers to communicate with their workers about hazards and procedures to avoid them. Technical guides and material safety data sheets should be available to all workers.
OSHA offers a free consultation service for small business owners, including help in identifying workplace hazards and establishing or improving safety and health management systems. Employers in high-hazard industries or involved in hazardous operations receive priority.
Let us help you make an informed decision about your workers compensation insurance needs. Our licensed agents specialize in helping small businesses obtain the best coverage at the best price, give us a call today at 855-780-1783.