While we often think of workplace safety only in relation to hazardous jobs, the reality is that workplace health and safety regulations apply to every company, no matter their industry. If you have a private company, OSHA compliance is required. While some health and safety compliance issues may be common sense rules, it’s easy to forget about some of the key rules requiring compliance.
Not complying carefully with OSHA’s regulations opens your company up to serious liabilities. If you have not assessed your company’s current compliance status, it may help to speak with an OSHA lawyer in the Priori network about where your company may be lacking.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was created to enforce workplace safety standards and protect employees from hazards in the workplace. These standards apply to all companies, no matter their size, from sole proprietorships with just two employees to large multinationals with thousands of employees. OSHA fulfills its role by setting health and safety standards, enforcing related laws and regulations, and providing health and safety training, outreach, education, and assistance to companies. They also perform workplace safety inspections, respond to employee complaints about unsafe working environments, and prosecute companies in violation of health and safety standards.
Key OSHA Enforcement Areas
OSHA is responsible for any potential workplace hazard, but focuses its health and safety enforcement efforts in particular
- Proper Reporting. All workplace injuries requiring hospitalization must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours. All fatalities must be reported within 8 hours.
- Hazard Communication. OSHA requires employers to provide adequate communication on and training about potential hazards in the workplace, especially how to deal with hazardous chemicals.
- Emergency Action Plan. All workplaces are required to have a clear emergency action plan that tells employees what to do in the event of fire or another emergency situation. This must include a clear evacuation plan.
- Fire Safety. All workplaces should have fire safety and prevention training.
- Exit Routes. Every workplace must have clearly marked exits and comply with OSHA's requirements for exit routes.
- Machinery Safety. All workers using potentially dangerous machinery must be properly trained according to OSHA guidelines. In addition, all equipment must be regularly checked for wear and tear that could endanger worker safety, as well as possible chemical or gas leaks that would compromise worker health.
- Walking/Working Surfaces. Slips and falls are among the most common workplace injuries, which is why all working spaces and walking surfaces must adhere to OHSA guidelines. This applies to floors, aisles, platforms, ladders, stairways, and other walking or working surfaces in the workplace.
- First Aid. All workplaces must be properly equipped with adequate medical supplies to deal with first aid emergencies likely to occur in the workplace. This may include CPR trainings.
- Biohazards. All biohazards, especially blood and other bodily fluids, must be dealt with according to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standards. In workplaces where biohazards are likely, there must be procedures in place to minimize the risk of contagion.
- Industry-Related Workplace Hazards. Every industry is subject to certain workplace hazards. Construction sites and healthcare clinics, for example, have inherently different workplace safety needs. Each company should check OSHA standards within their industry to ensure full compliance.
OSHA Training Requirements
OSHA is responsible for ensuring that all offices have proper health and safety training. Because of this, they provide in-person programs, compliance guides and pre-made training course for many compliance areas subject to enforcement. Every company must use OSHA materials at minimum or get alternative trainings approved. If your company has had no health or safety trainings in the past year, it may be time to review the training standards that apply in your industry to ensure you are in compliance.
If OSHA believes that a workplace is not in proper compliance, they can send inspectors without notice to assess workplace safety threats and compliance with standards. These inspectors have the right to enter work sites or to call and conduct a phone investigation. Usually, such inspections will be triggered by a recent workplace injury or an employee or customer complaint, but sometimes they are simply spot checks in industries with high injury or illness rates and severe violators. If you fail an OSHA inspection, your company is subject to sanctions, increased monitoring and even criminal and civil penalties. If you are worried about an inspection, it may help to speak with a workplace safety lawyer for more detailed information.
Depending on your needs, the cost of hiring a lawyer to ensure your compliance with OSHA can vary. When you a hire a lawyer in the Priori network, a basic small business OSHA plan typically costs between $1500-$5000. Hourly rates for lawyers with OSHA experience run from $185-$400 per hour on average. In order to get a better sense of cost for your particular situation, put in a request to schedule a complimentary consultation and receive a free price quote from one of our lawyers.
Who needs to comply with OSHA requirements?
Any private company operating in the United States falls under OSHA’s jurisdiction. The only exceptions are government employees and contractors, self-employed persons and family farm workers. If you own a small business with fewer than 10 people, however, you are not responsible for injury and incident reports. In addition, companies with fewer than 10 employees in “low-hazard” industries are not subject to programmed OSHA inspections.