OSHA Standards: 5 Things Every Small Business Needs to Comply

OSHA Standards: 5 Things Every Small Business Needs to Comply

OSHA Standards: 5 Things Every Small Business Needs to Comply

OSHA Standards: 5 Things Every Small Business Needs to Comply


While many may believe OSHA standards only apply for industrial-type businesses, there are defined standards all businesses must comply with, regardless of size and industry. Under the OSH law, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace free of known health and safety hazards. That is a component of OSHA’s general duty clause, and all employers must comply regardless of size. 

So, what is OSHA, and what does it stand for? With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and covers most private sector employers and their workers in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority.

Pennsylvania is under federal OSHA jurisdiction, which covers most private-sector workers within the state. The following are five key takeaways all employers must follow: 


Provide a Safe and Hazard Free Worksite 

Under the General Duty Clause of the OSH law, employer and employees have the following responsibilities:  Each employer --shall furnish to each of their employees' employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; Employers shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act; and each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued under this Act which apply to his actions and conduct. 

For businesses within different industries, it is vital to follow all applicable regulations under OSHA’s four standard divisions. These are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. Standard 1926 covers the construction industry and identifies the specific work-related risks associated. Standard 1910 regulations detail general industry safety regulations and apply to most worksites. Standard 1928 covers the agriculture sector, and maritime is covered under 1915, 1917, and 1918. As there are several subsections to each regulation, it is important to take the time to understand which standards apply to your business. For more information, visit Laws and Regulations on OSHA.gov.

Required Postings 

Employers must display OSHA's Safe and Healthful Workplaces poster in a conspicuous location in your workplace where workers and prospective employees can see it. This publication informs employees of their rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act.

Record Keeping 

Most businesses with more than ten employees at any time during the calendar year must maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses as they occur using OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. 

Recordkeeping may not be required for employers in low-hazard business. Examples include most retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, and service industries. A list full of all exempt industries can be found here on the OSHA.gov website. However, regardless of industry – all employers must report any workplace incident that results in a fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

Emergency Action Plan 

A Written Emergency Action Plan is required for all businesses with more than ten employees. If you have ten or fewer employees, you are still required to have an emergency action plan, however, this can be communicated verbally.   

Emergency plans contain information about evacuation procedures, floor plans and maps, exits, and employee actions. It covers fires, explosions, toxic chemical spills, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, etc. It also describes additional responsibilities to be carried out by specific employees to ensure that emergency is handled smoothly. 

Some industries are also required to have additional plans. Examples include fire prevention plans, personal protective equipment plans, bloodborne pathogen plans, fall protection plans, hazard control plans, electrical safety plans, forklift operation plans, aerial lifts, and machine guarding plans.

Training & Education 

Employers must provide training to employees in the specific safety and health aspects of their workplace. This includes any potential hazards, and all new employees, supervisors, and top management should know all hazards in and around the workplace. All employees must also know the proper use and application of personal protective equipment (PPE). If your business is remote from medical facilities, you are required to ensure that adequately trained personnel are available to render first aid. First-aid supplies must be readily available for emergency use.

OSHA provides an outreach training program to provide workers with basic or more advanced training about common safety and health hazards on the job. Participants can choose either the 10 or 30-hour course and will receive an OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour completion card at the end of the training. The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of workplace hazards. Outreach classes also provide overview information regarding OSHA, including worker's rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint. Please note that the outreach training does not fulfill the training requirements found in OSHA standards. Employers are responsible for providing additional training for their workers on specific hazards of their job as noted in many OSHA standards. A full list of standards requiring training can be found here


Bottom line, all employers are required to follow OSHA guidelines regardless of the total number of employees and regardless of the type of operation.


Next Steps

Our consultants here at the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center can assist you with your small business. We offer no-cost business consulting in Southwestern PA. You can request consulting here.


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