When you’re caught up in the daily work hustle, slips and slides aren’t the first thing on your mind. It doesn’t seem like something serious is likely to happen, right? But if anything does, you want to make sure you’ve got everything squared away. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules will help you do just that. Serious, but with a fun name nickname, OSHA is something to study up on if you have a physical office where people come to work.
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 — and employers have to wade through it all. But we’re right by your side. In this article, we’ll show you how to usher OSHA into your workplace.
What does OSHA do?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million nonfatal on-the-job injuries in 2014, and 75 percent of them were in service-providing industries. Not to be morbid, but sometimes stuff happens. And OSHA can help keep that statistic way down.
OSHA is the federal agency that’s 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.
What does this mean for me?
Oh, OSHA. What are you exactly? 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 public employees.
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 staff. This is done by 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 — whatever time period is longer.
Do you rock a team of 10 folks or less? If your business has consistently had 10 employees or fewer over the past year, you may be partially exempt from some OSHA record-keeping requirements. Click through to 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.
Why you need to develop an injury and illness prevention program
Since prevention is the best approach to keeping your office safe, OSHA recommends that each employer creates their own personalized prevention program. Successful prevention programs share a number of common elements, listed here:
- Involvement from management
- Worker participation
- Hazard identification
- Hazard prevention and control
- Education and training
- Program evaluation and improvement
How can OSHA help me?
Feeling OSHA-ed out? They totally get it. The agency not only modified their requirements for small businesses, but they’ve also created a network for information and support to help 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. And yes, the 56 pages is just a run-through. 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), along with other posters and forms that will make compliance way less perplexing.