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OSHA Compliance Requirements: What Do Employers Need To Know?

  • Recursos humanos
  • Artículo
  • Lectura de 6 minutos
  • Last Updated: 11/28/2023

un empleador que se asegura de que su empresa cumpla con los requisitos de la OSHA

Table of Contents

Every business owner who values their employees' safety needs to be familiar with OSHA compliance requirements for small businesses. Here's a primer on what employers should know about what's required under OSHA, whether you're a small to mid-sized business owner or a key compliance stakeholder for a large business.

OSHA, which stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is an agency run by the U.S. Department of Labor. Its job is to provide guidelines for workplace health and safety, to protect employees through the inspection of workplace environments, and to ensure employers comply with a series of safety and health standards.

At first, an employer may groan at the idea of their OSHA employer responsibilities. But a more productive way to think about OSHA compliance requirements is to see them as a set of best practices that keeps your workforce safe and healthy. The Paychex 2023 Pulse of HR Survey reports that attracting and retaining top talent remains a priority and a challenge. In response, HR leaders tackle this goal by providing what current staff needs to thrive and then conveying this commitment to potential hires. Indeed, providing a safe work environment is essential for workers to thrive. The resulting safety record can also be used to help your business demonstrate that it is an attractive place to work, which can help recruit high-quality candidates.

What Is OSHA Compliance?

OSHA compliance refers to a business following the specific set of best practices, rules, and regulations outlined by OSHA to ensure the safest possible environment for its workers. OSHA has seven sectors — agriculture, construction, federal agencies, healthcare, maritime, oil and gas, and warehouse — each with its specific regulations for workplace safety. In addition to safety, OSHA compliance may also involve meticulous recordkeeping. OSHA uses these records to review accident reports and data to improve and revise its recommended safety practices. However, when employers ask, "What is OSHA compliance?", they are usually concerned with the specific action plan and steps they need to implement to meet OSHA compliance requirements.

Who Is Covered Under OSHA?

Most private sector businesses and their employees must meet OSHA safety and health requirements. That means most small businesses, mid-sized businesses, and large businesses are subject to OSHA regulations.

OSHA requirements for small businesses are a bit more nuanced, however. Small businesses with ten or fewer employees are partially exempt, meaning they are not required to maintain OSHA injury and illness records unless informed otherwise in writing by OSHA or the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Public sector employees, such as those employed by state and local governments, are not entitled to OSHA protection.

What Businesses Are Not Covered Under OSHA?

If you're wondering what businesses OSHA does not cover, the answer is very few. These businesses fall under particular categories.

  • Self-employed. This includes people who report self-employment income and do not have any employees, such as independent contractors or sole proprietors.
  • Family farms. These are farms operated by an immediate family and do not have outside employees.
  • Externally regulated facilities. The Department of Labor (DOL) classifies these as workers whose hazards are regulated by another federal agency, such as the Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, or Coast Guard.

What Are OSHA Requirements for Employers?

Provided your business has several people on its payroll and isn't a family farm or externally regulated facility, it is subject to OSHA regulations. What are the OSHA requirements, then, for your particular business?

OSHA requirements for businesses include identifying and eliminating recognized hazards, taking all measures possible to protect employees from illness or injury, and educating employees on workplace health and safety measures. Here are five critical OSHA safety requirements for small businesses to address to ensure OSHA compliance:

1. Emergency Plans

An emergency plan is a fundamental OSHA employer responsibility. Businesses must implement an emergency action plan that details how employees can leave the workplace in the event of an emergency and what actions they should take in such a situation. A written emergency action plan must be stored and easily accessible on the premises.

2. Fire Safety

A written fire safety plan describes actions employees must follow during a fire. Emergency fire exits must be clearly identified and always kept free of obstructions. While fire extinguishers are not OSHA-mandated, if a business keeps fire extinguishers on site, employees must be trained to use them.

3. Hazardous Materials and Environments

OSHA requires employers to give employees clear information concerning the use of hazardous chemicals and materials. Employees should receive appropriate safety training in using and handling these chemicals, and all such materials must be clearly identified. In addition to hazardous substance training, employees may also need training in blood-borne pathogens and emergencies. Protecting employees from hazardous materials and environments also includes keeping employees supplied with adequate and necessary personal protection equipment (PPE). Examples of PPE include:

  • Head protection
  • Gloves
  • Shoe covers
  • Masks
  • Respirators
  • Eye protection
  • Face shields
  • Goggles
  • Body protection (lanyards, chap paints, reinforced foot protection)
  • Hearing protection

4. First Aid

Every workplace must be equipped with first aid supplies, particularly those that relate to potential hazards that might occur in that workplace. Also, businesses located in a remote area or outside the proximity of a medical facility must maintain on-site emergency personnel. OSHA representatives determine these distances based on an assessment of the type of business and the existence of potential hazards. In addition to first aid, medical exams may also be required for OSHA compliance. This can arise during regular exposure to dangerous chemicals such as asbestos and lead or damaging environments such as occupational noise exposure, among others.

5. Recordkeeping and Posting Requirements

Every OSHA-covered business must also meet specific recordkeeping requirements for work-related injuries or illnesses. Businesses must also adhere to posting requirements.

OSHA defines a recordable injury or illness as:

  • Any work-related fatality.
  • Any work-related injury or illness that results in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job.
  • Any work-related injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Any work-related diagnosed case of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth, and punctured eardrums.
  • There are also particular recording criteria for work-related cases involving needlestick and sharps injuries, medical removal, hearing loss, and tuberculosis.

The OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries (Forms 300 and 300A) is used for accurate recordkeeping of such incidents. Employees and former employees are granted access to these forms. Additionally, a business can use the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) for electronic recordkeeping.

An "OSHA Job Safety and Health: It's the Law" poster (or a state-plan equivalent) must also be prominently displayed in the workplace. This poster outlines employees' job safety rights. It's important to note that a business is prohibited from discriminating against employees exercising their rights under OSHA.

Find Help Meeting OSHA Compliance Requirements

The wide range of OSHA regulations for small businesses may initially seem daunting. That's why employers might consider taking advantage of OSHA's free and confidential advice to small businesses through its On-site Consultation Program. This service is unrelated to enforcement and will not result in penalties or citations.

Another cost-effective way for small businesses to become OSHA compliant is by adopting a safety program. This program can help teams recognize potential hazards before an accident and give managers and workers the resources to prevent work-related injuries and illness. If maintaining legal and regulatory compliance sounds challenging, you're not alone. A qualified, third-party service like Paychex can help assess your risk exposure, recommend steps to mitigate the exposure, and establish and maintain that plan to ensure long-term compliance.


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* Este contenido es solo para fines educativos, no tiene por objeto proporcionar asesoría jurídica específica y no debe utilizarse en sustitución de la asesoría jurídica de un abogado u otro profesional calificado. Es posible que la información no refleje los cambios más recientes en la legislación, la cual podrá modificarse sin previo aviso y no se garantiza que esté completa, correcta o actualizada.

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