If you are a private-sector employer, you know that the safety and well-being of your workforce are of paramount importance. Your employees are the lifeline of your business and deserve a safe work environment. That’s where OSHA regulations come into play.
Let us discuss what OSHA is and how you, as an employer, can avoid penalties by making your workplace safe for your employees. You will also find out whether your company needs to meet OSHA regulations or not, as these regulations should not be taken lightly by any business, big or small.
What is OSHA?
OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal regulatory agency under the Department of Labor. The OSH Act (1970) requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.
Whether they are outdoor job sites or office buildings, businesses must adhere to the OSHA standards and protocols at all times. In addition, OSHA officials can make unannounced visits to job sites for inspection.
Failing to comply with OSHA standards not only results in penalties and imprisonment but also loss of reputation. For example, the Obama administration named and shamed businesses that violated OSHA rules. Since then, more and more companies have started to take the health and safety issue seriously.
Difference Between Federal OSHA and OSHA-approved State Plan
The states and U.S. territories are free to either adopt the federal recommendations by OSHA or come up with their own workplace safety regulations. However, the plan needs to be approved by OSHA before it can be made official. This ensures that the guidelines and protocols effectively mitigate illness, injuries, and casualties at the workplace.
At present, 22 U.S. states have created their own OSHA-approved State Plan. Do you want to know if the state in which your business operates is under State Plan or federal OSHA? You can find out using this interactive map available on their official website.
Four Types of OSHA Industry Standards
OSHA has classified industries in the United States into four broad categories. Each category has its own rules and regulations that take into account the risks associated with the respective industry. The four categories are as follows:
Construction Industry Standards
Since the construction industry comprises activities such as building skyscrapers, dams, bridges, etc., it involves serious health hazards such as falling, electrocution, other types of physical injuries, or even chemical hazards from breathing asbestos, silica dust, etc.
Maritime Industry Standards
The maritime industry is related to the construction, repair, scrapping of ships, and the movement of cargo and other goods. Some of the frequently cited standards in the maritime industry include slips and falls, machinery hazards, fire hazards, and other hazards in the context of confined spaces.
Agriculture Industry Standards
The agriculture industry involves growing and harvesting crops, poultry, and livestock. OSHA standards aim to mitigate health risks to farmworkers caused by exposure to chemicals and fertilizers, prolonged exposure to the sun, noise-related hearing loss, lung diseases, and other sorts of physical injuries.
General Industry Standards
General industries are those industries that do not come under the construction, maritime, and agriculture categories. These industries are regulated by OSHA’s General Industry Standards rules and regulations.
Businesses Exempt From OSHA Regulations
Only a handful of employers do not come under OSHA regulations. That includes self-employed individuals and people who employ individuals at their residences, such as the domestic help, cook, or nanny. In addition, farmers who only have their immediate family working on their farms are also exempt from these regulations.
That means most of the private sector businesses in the United States must adhere to OSHA regulations. Small businesses like jewelry stores and gas stations also fall under the purview of OSHA, even if they are partially exempt from keeping injury and illness records. This also applies to other businesses with less than ten employees.
If you are unsure whether your business falls under the ambit of OSHA, it’s best to contact an attorney who can give you detailed information on the same.
You can also visit the official OSHA website to know more about the standards laid down for your industry. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Visit the Frequently Cited OSHA Standards webpage.
Step 2: Select the number of employees in your business.
Step 3: Select the OSHA jurisdiction (Federal or State).
Step 4: Enter the North American Industry Classification System code.
(The NAICS code is a 2-6 digit number that categorizes American business establishments. For example, the NAICS code for a full-service restaurant is 722511.)
Step 5: Click on the ‘Submit’ button.
Primary Employer Responsibilities
As per the OSH Act of 1970, private sector employers must provide employees with a safe working environment and comply with standards and protocols set by OSHA.
Here are some of the primary requirements for all employers to make their workplace safer:
- Use color codes, signs, and posters to highlight potential hazards at the workplace
- Make sure your workplace conditions comply with OSHA standards
- Provide workers with safety tools and equipment
- Carry out maintenance of heavy machinery regularly
- Create standard operating procedures (SOPs) and share them with your employees
- Ensure that your employees participate in safety training and fire drills
- Put up the OSHA poster at a prominent location at your workplace
- Keep a record of work-related injuries and illness
- Report work-related fatalities at the nearest OSHA office within 8 hours.
Penalties for OSHA Violations
From January 15, 2021, there has been an increase in penalties for violating OSHA rules and regulations. For each grave OSHA violation, the maximum penalty is now $13,653.
Likewise, if an employer fails to correct the violations issued by OSHA, the maximum penalty is now $13,653 per day beyond the date of abatement. Willful and repeat violators of OSHA norms are penalized a maximum of $136,532 for each violation.
Barring a few expectations, most private businesses in the United States come under OSHA Regulations. So it’s just a matter of time before inspection officials come knocking at your office door.
However, keeping your workplace OSHA-compliant can be time-consuming as it involves data collection, inspection, and reporting. But Pulse can help you! It is a world-class safety audit app that uses advanced AI technology to automate cumbersome audit tasks. Sign up for a 30-day free trial for Pulse Pro and get access to advanced audit features.