Does OSHA Apply to Small Businesses? What to Know

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created by Congress through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 for the purpose of ensuring safe working conditions. Safe working conditions are supported through mandatory requirements pertaining to employee education and training, as well as compliance-driven support for environmental hazards in the workplace.

The federal statutes guided by the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA cover some public sector employees and a majority of those employed through private entities. When talking about OSHA, we often think about large businesses or corporations with many employees. You may be wondering, does OSHA apply to small businesses? If you’re a small business owner, here’s what to know. 

How Can Small Businesses Benefit From OSHA Training?

The health and safety of the workforce of a small business are just as significant as those working for larger employers. Small businesses are often operated by a smaller, close-knit group of people that could be family or friends. This can present a dynamic that fosters a more personalized relationship between employer and employee as well as less flexibility should one of those members of the team become sick or injured.

With fewer resources and less flexibility, small businesses sometimes feel greater pressure to make sure they are doing everything by the book and owners need to stay up to date with current regulations and standards. 

To remain current, small business owners can tap into educational resources offered by Premiere Education, such as OSHA and the Safe Workplace, covering must-know topics like standards in communication, employee rights, and employer responsibility.

How Many People Does Your Business Employ?

There are some partial exemptions when it comes to OSHA documentation and reporting depending on how many employees there are. Companies with 10 or fewer employees do not need to keep records of illness or injury unless they are asked to do so by OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics wants a business to maintain these records, they must notify that business in writing.

The number of employees working for a business matters across the entire year. If at any point during the calendar year a business has more than 10 employees, the standard reporting and documentation guidelines must be followed. Also, a business of any size, even those with 10 or fewer employees, must report any work-related injury or illness that results in that employee’s death.

So, does OSHA apply to small businesses? Yes, but keep in mind that there are exceptions to being regulated by OSHA in the private sector. For people that are self-employed, businesses that are governed by other federal agencies, or employees that are employed by immediate family members in farming, reporting to OSHA is also exempt. 

What Industry Are You In?

Sticking to OSHA regulations matters more in some industries than others. For example, if your job involves exposure to bloodborne pathogens, then OSHA compliance is required by law.

Some industries are considered low-risk. If a business is considered low risk by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), reporting is not required. These businesses are not completely off the hook though. They may also be notified in writing at any time by OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the need to start keeping track of this information. 

Where Is Your Small Business Located?

There is the possibility that the state in which you’re operating your small business may be regulated by a local state agency. There are 22 states across the country with OSHA-approved workplace safety plans in place. These plans are operated by the respective state and can cover both the private and the public sectors. 

These 22 state plans have all been determined to be at least as effective as the current OSHA standards, and are monitored annually through the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME) process. 

Is Your Business Governed by a Federal Agency?

Additional exemptions exist when talking about a business that is considered a religious organization or a business that is governed by another federal agency. A federal agency like the Department of Energy will have separate and unique requirements they will use in promoting workplace health and safety.

Need to Report

There are some more exceptions to the rules related to exemptions in maintaining records and reporting work-related injury or illness. Any business with 10 or fewer employees, or in an industry found to be low risk, must report any single injury that results in that employee’s death. This is required so that OSHA can make a thorough determination of work-related risk in all cases of work-related death.

The same rule applies when multiple employees are hospitalized from a single event. Any business that has 3 or more employees hospitalized at once needs to report the events and the outcomes to OSHA for evaluation. 

A Safe and Satisfying Workplace Begins With Safety

For anyone wondering, does OSHA apply to small businesses, the answer is a resounding yes. Small businesses across multiple industries will find value in familiarizing themselves with the standards created by OSHA to keep people safe and happy at work. Premiere Education offers a helpful overview of OSHA compliance and workplace safety.

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