The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a federal agency that monitors health and safety in the workplace. Created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the first safety standard issued by OSHA limited asbestos exposure. More than 40 years later, OSHA now regulates a comprehensive list of interim, temporary, emergency, and permanent regulations.
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It can seem like a lot, but we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll show you how to usher OSHA into your workplace.
What is OSHA, and what does it do?
OSHA is concerned with everything from mechanical and chemical safety to fall prevention and protecting whistleblowers. It’s also evolving to meet an ever-growing list of risks, from heat-related illnesses to the Zika virus.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million nonfatal on-the-job injuries in 2017. OSHA’s goal is to help keep that statistic down.
What are my OSHA responsibilities as an employer?
Most employers and employees are covered by requirements under either the federal OSHA or OSHA-approved state programs. There are a few exceptions, like people who are self-employed or employed by the federal government.
The main OSHA responsibilities for employers include:
- Maintaining a safe work environment that meets all its standards, rules, and regulations.
- Ensuring workers have and use the tools they need to properly maintain equipment.
- Putting up posters, colors, labels, or signs to alert people of possible danger.
- Establishing safety procedures and communicating them to your staff. This should be done using language and vocabulary they can understand so they’re followed correctly.
- Providing medical exams and training when required.
- Displaying the free “OSHA Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster that you can get from the Department of Labor.
- Keeping records of any work-related injuries or illnesses, and reporting incidents within OSHA or local state guidelines.
- Posting any citations at or near the work location involved. You need to keep the notice up for at least three days or until the transgression has been reversed—whichever time period is longer.
If your business has consistently had 10 or fewer employees over the past year, you may be partially exempt from some OSHA record-keeping requirements. See if the rule applies to you.
Grab a full list of your OSHA responsibilities here, and be sure to check with local and state authorities for specific requirements for your area.
OSHA recommends that each employer creates their own personalized injury and illness prevention program. Successful prevention programs can include a number of common elements:
- Involvement from management
- Worker participation
- Hazard identification
- Hazard prevention and control
- Education and training
- Program evaluation and improvement
How can OSHA help me?
If all of these responsibilities sound super time-consuming and stressful, don’t worry—OSHA’s not only modified their requirements for small businesses but also created a network where you can get information and support to ensure you have all your bases covered.
First, find a comfy chair and review the OSHA Small Business Handbook. It’s a whopper, clocking in at 56 pages, but it’ll give you an overview of the federal OSHA requirements for small employers.
Then, check out OSHA’s site for small businesses, where you can find information about free on-site consultations, access step-by-step compliance assistance guides (for some industries), and check out other posters and forms that will make compliance way less perplexing.