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January 29, 2019 4 min read

safety for small businesses

How to make sure your business is OSHA compliant in 2019.

Have you ever questioned if your business was in compliance with OSHA requirements?

Have you ever wondered what those requirements were and if they applied to your company?

Have you even tried to find the answer, but then become frustrated at the lack of clear, concise advice out there?

If so, you’re not alone.

Digging into OSHA requirements and attempting to find direct answers online is like asking your dog for directions to the bank.

 safety for small business

It’s often frustrating and usually leads nowhere.

I am trying to change that.

So, without further ado, here are 6 things you can do to get your business started on the road to OSHA compliance (without devoting your life to it).

small business safety 

6 Things You Can Do to Get Your Business to OSHA Compliance

 1. Figure out what industry your business is in.

OSHA classifies businesses into a few separate industries. Different industries have different safety requirements.

The vast majority of small businesses will fit into what OSHA refers to as General Industry.

This could be anything from a gummy bear factory to an industrial vacuum truck service to a distillery.

It covers a wide range.

The other industries OSHA breaks business out, are Construction and Maritime.

If you are the owner of a mine, you will not answer to OSHA, but instead, MSHA.

Not sure if your business is Construction or General Industry? Click here.

2. Figure out if your state has their own version of OSHA.

Some states have developed their own sets of codes that are more protective than OSHA, which is a federal program. 

Why? 

OSHA moves slowly. Industry in the US innovates and changes faster than the safety rule book can keep up.

Because of this, some states have developed their own programs to be more protective.

To find out if you are in one of these states, click here.

Now you know which industry and requirements apply to your business.

3. Next, post this OSHA poster.

So simple right? 

This poster needs to be displayed in an employee common area so employees know their rights.

This poster is also available in Spanish, Arabic, Cebuano, Chinese, Haitian, Creole, Korean, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Tagalong, and Vietnamese. You can find these versions in the links on this page.

If you are in a state with their own version of OSHA, you may need to find the poster specific to your state.

4. Find out which written programs you need to implement.

OSHA has some rules that businesses need to have written programs in place for. This is to allow employees to access and learn about the company safety rules.

This also give the business an opportunity to develop a standard approach to dealing with hazards.

Programs that may be required can vary greatly depending on the work your business does.

The list below gives the 6 most commonly needed starter programs for small businesses. (For program packages, click here)

  • Emergency Action Plan – Generally any facility with chemical or fire hazards that may require emergency response or evacuation (basically any facility) must have an emergency action and fire prevention plan. These may be oral rather than written if you have fewer than 10 employees.
  • Company Safety and Health Management Program – This basically outlines how your company intends to manage workplace safety.
  • Personal Protective Equipment – If you have work situations that require employees to use gloves, eye protection or any other protective equipment, you need to have a written hazard assessment. The purpose of this is to show why you chose the equipment and show the thought process to ensure your company chooses the best equipment possible.
  • Hearing Conservation Plan – OSHA requires companies that have noise that may exceed the noise action level to have a noise monitoring program. A good rule of thumb for this is, if you are standing two feet apart from a colleague and have to raise your voice to be heard, you may be at the threshold of a noise problem.
  • Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plan – Okay, so any employer whose employees may incur skin, eye, mucous membrane or, other contact with blood or other bodily fluids must establish a written exposure control plan. You may thing this sounds extreme but in all honesty, this applies to almost any workplace if employees can potentially be cut, injured or exposed to others who are.
  • Hazard communication Program – This is the program that says employees have a right to know what chemicals they may be exposed to at work. And, it applies to any workplace that has at least one hazardous chemical. Which mean, pretty much any modern workplace.

 5. Start keeping an injury log.

Today, almost all employers need to keep an injury log and submit it to OSHA annually.

They also need to post this log from Feb 1st to April 30th of each year. 

There are only a few exceptions to this rule, and they are employers with ten or fewer employers at all times.

Or employers in certain low hazard industries such as jewelry stores, legal services, and software publishers to name a few.

To see the full list click here.

6. Start auditing.

I know, audit is like a bad word to most people.

Let’s just call them safety checks.

Start conducting safety checks.

This could be as simple as making sure your paint cans are stored properly when you walk through the warehouse and inspecting fire extinguishers.

The point is, you get what you inspect, not what you expect.

So start making sure that safety on paper matches the safety that happens in the field.

Help educate your employees. Set up a training schedule so they are successful in meeting requirements.

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Now, you’ve got the basics in place. Keep it up every year like your taxes.

Update your poster annually. 

Make sure that new additions to the workplace are evaluated to see if you need to change safety policies, procedures and training.

Post your injury log.

See? Not so bad.

It’ll all be routine before you know it.

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If you have more questions, you can check out our e-book for small businesses here.

OSHA's Small Business Handbook is here.

And small business safety program templates are here


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