The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is commonly associated with workplace safety. This federal agency came to be following the 1970 passing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by then President Richard Nixon. Thanks to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA has the authority to put regulations for safety and health in the workplace.
Some of the regulations include safety procedure requirements and limits for chemical exposure on the job. As a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA’s mission statement is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
OSHA Inspections, Regulations and Violations
OSHA enforces safety standards via inspections, fines and violations. OSHA is responsible for serving about 7 million workplaces. However, there is no possible way for OSHA inspectors to inspect all of these workplaces in full. In fact, according to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, it would take approximately 130 years to visit each of the workplaces under OSHA. Therefore, it is the employer’s responsibility to maintain safety and health procedures that comply with OSHA.
OSHA inspectors who find violations can charge businesses up to $7,000 for a violation or up to $70,000 for repeat violations. The implementation of hefty fines encourages businesses to remain compliant with OSHA regulations. However, for most business owners the only encounter they have with OSHA inspectors occurs after a workplace safety- or health-related incident.
Getting Started with OSHA
The majority of business owners can anticipate working with OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers. For new business owners, the OSHA Compliance Assistance Quick Start is an entry-level program that will help you get started with safety compliance. Also, check out the OSHA State Plans to find out if your state has its own health and safety program that you will need to follow. Note that some industries are not required to comply with OSHA as they are regulated by other governmental agencies. These include:
- Family farms or small farms with fewer than 10 employees and sans labor housing for migrant workers
- Domestic workers employed in a private household (e.g., a nanny or maid)
- Self-employed individuals
- Workers in quarries and mines, who are covered by the Mine Safety and Health Administration
- Public sector employees, such as those working for the U.S. Postal Service
- Flight crews, who are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration
What to Expect with OSHA
Business owners have certain employer responsibilities for workplace health and safety as set forth by OSHA. For example, employers are required to post OSHA posters around the workplace. These detail safety procedures and healthy behaviors, such as washing one’s hands before handling food products or wearing hair nets in a factory setting. Additionally, employers are often required to provide safety training, which can be found via OSHA specifically for several industries including construction.
Employers must report all accidents and safety-related incidents to OSHA within a set period of time. To avoid incurring any violations or fines, business owners must take the initiative to be up-to-speed with OSHA regulations. By taking this precautionary measure, employers provide a safe and healthy workplace, while ensuring that their business is not hampered by OSHA violations.
Description: OSHA provides safety and health regulations for many types of businesses. By staying up-to-date with OSHA regulations, business owners can prevent hazardous work conditions and hefty fines.
Jacob Maslow is a consultant for Tuff Supplies, an online retailer of workplace safety gear.