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What are the OSHA Standards for Small Businesses?

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Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers have a duty to provide employees a work environment that is free from dangers that may cause death or serious injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) assures the health, security, and safety of America’s workers by enforcing standards, promoting continuous improvement in workplace safety guidelines, and providing training and education to employers and employees alike.

The OSHA standards, however, vary per industry as some are more prone to risk than others. They also differ depending on the size of the company. So what are the OSHA standards for small businesses?

Small Business Handbook

Small businesses are exempt from some aspects of the OSH Act. OSHA released the Small Business Handbook as part of the Small Business Safety Management Series in 2005 to guide owners, proprietors, and managers in meeting the applicable legal requirements imposed by the OSH Act and achieve an in-compliance status before an inspection.

It’s important to note that some states enforce their own safety and health programs. If you’re unaware about the regulations in your state and exceptions under the OSH Act, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney. This way, you won’t unknowingly violate health and safety standards.

Although regulations may differ per state, small businesses in any state can still refer to the OSHA’s handbook because the standards imposed by states still observe the Federal OSHA standards.

General Exceptions

Businesses with fewer than 10 employees throughout the year are exempt from injury and accident reporting and the mandated inspections by OSHA employees. Companies in low-hazard industries, such as real estate, finance, and retail are also exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping rules.

The OSH Act doesn’t cover certain employers. This includes self-employed individuals, those who hire people for domestic services, like childcare and cleaning, and farmers who only employ family members. Churches and their religious activities and institutions overseen by federal agencies are also not covered.

In general, employers are not required to provide retirement plans, paid leaves, dental or vision plans, medical plans (except in Hawaii), and life insurance plans. But most companies partner with group medical and supplemental insurance carriers to provide competitive benefits for their employees.

Assessing Health and Safety Programs

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The OSHA highlights the need for the continual improvement of safety protocols to stay vigilant of potential hazards in the workplace. To help small businesses cope with the OSH Act, OSHA provides resources specifically for small business owners. They offer free consultation services for small businesses to identify workplace hazards and improve company-wide safety and health management programs.

Some of the aspects included in the analysis of existing protocols are the following:

  • Safety and health activities – Examine ongoing and past activities, policy statements, rules, and regulations for proper work practices and procedures.
  • Equipment – List major equipment, its functions, and where it’s stored. Take careful note of maintenance and inspection schedules for important equipment and tools.
  • History of accidents, illnesses, and injuries – Review past first-aid cases and other workplace incidents to pinpoint and give appropriate attention to recurring accidents and injuries.

Small businesses shouldn’t feel scared or intimated by the OSHA. The OSHA exists to help companies observe safety and health protocols. Business owners can seek help from the organization to better safeguard their employees from harm.


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