OSHA is “committed to assuring—so far as possible—that every working man and woman in the nation has safe and healthful working conditions.” The federal agency provides top-to-bottom guidance on building a workplace safety and compliance program in the OSHA Small Business Handbook.
If your business has 10 or fewer employees, you may be exempt from some of the OSHA injury and illness record-keeping requirements. However, even very small businesses need to heed OSHA standards and regulations. Penalties for not doing so can be costly.
“As soon as an employer has one employee, they must follow the general duty clause of the OSHA regulations,” said Karen A. Young, author of Stop Knocking on My Door—Drama Free HR to Help Grow Your Business.
“Employers, regardless of size, must provide a workplace that is safe and free of known hazards—this includes workplace violence,” said Young.
OSHA laws vary by state, but a good compliance starting point is “Having the correct workers’ compensation codes and rates, and ensuring they match with each employee and their respective job duties to make sure workers are covered,” said Sarah Sommers, CEO of Solutions at Work, a Reno-based HR consulting firm.
Employers must also carry some form of workers’ compensation insurance, according to Young. “Carriers are state-based. You should check with your property and casualty insurance broker,” Young advised.
OSHA recommends that small business owners institute the following four-point workplace program to set yourself up for successful compliance.
- Management commitment and employee involvement. This point speaks to showing your commitment to health and safety to employees through leading by example. For instance, this might include posting your “policy on worker safety and health next to the Job Safety and Health Protection Poster” in a highly visible location. Another example is making sure as the owner you’re wearing appropriate safety gear (hard hats, safety glasses) at all times so employees model your behavior.
- Worksite analysis. Without an analysis, weeding through all the requirements and trying to make sure you’re abiding by them could be overwhelming. OSHA recommends making use of its free and confidential Consultation Program, where a professional will visit your site and help with the analysis. This step of the plan also involves planning reviews and putting checklists in place to ensure requirements are met long-term.
- Hazard prevention and control. You can also use an expert through the Consultation Program to help here. This phase is all about implementing the systems that prevent or control the hazards that were identified in the last step. Items like equipment maintenance, emergency plans and routine walk-throughs fall into this category.
- Training employees, supervisors and managers. “You must ensure that all employees know about the materials and equipment they work with, known hazards, and how to control the hazards,” OSHA states in its Small Business Handbook.
It’s important to remember that OSHA regulations vary by state and also by industry. “The type of business [determines] whether or not they have to add additional policies to ensure a safe workplace,” said Sommers. “For example, an office has a different standard than a manufacturing company that has chemicals.”
To get started on creating your plan to ensure OSHA compliance, visit the official site.
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