OSHA Compliance — most business owners are familiar with the phrase, but what is OSHA compliance really?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a branch of the federal Department of Labor charged with the task of ensuring that employers establish and maintain a safe workplace for their employees. As new types of businesses emerge, OSHA consistently expands the number of regulatory standards and updates existing standards to match the growth.
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An OSHA Standard is just that – the nuts and bolts rules that must be followed regarding a particular enterprise. A complete listing of all federal OSHA standards can be viewed at the OSHA.gov website. These standards are part of the Code of Federal Regulations parts 26 and 29. There is a standard for virtually every type of business activity. In those rare instances where a particular action is not covered by a specific standard, OSHA differs to the “General Duty Clause” a broad statement that dictates employers have a duty to establish and maintain a safe workplace for their employees.
In some instances, individual states have applied for and received an exception from federal OSHA by creating their own state OSHA. The feds allow this – but only if the rules and regulations established are equal to or more stringent than those created by the federal government. California for example has one of the most extensive state-OSHA operations. In some aspects the Cal-OSHA rules and regulations far exceed those established by the federal government.
OSHA Compliance Means More than Common Sense Safety
Compliance with OSHA standards is much more than common sense. Over time the rules have become more detailed and failure to comply has become a costly proposition. I am always amazed at how established businesses are often unaware of what OSHA standards apply to them.
For example, almost all OSHA standards have an employee training component that requires employers to train employees on a particular hazard and to maintain documentation to prove that the training has been done. Often, the employee training must be done annually as a refresher to established employees and as new training for recent hires. In 2013 for example, more than 7,000 US businesses were cited by OSHA for failure to comply with the training component of the Hazard Communication Act.
To assure compliance with OSHA standards, most businesses either need a safety manager on staff or access to compliance assistance through organizations like Employers Resource. Our Regional Safety Managers assist our clients in identifying those standards which apply to their business as well as developing and implementing written policies and procedures for compliance. In larger companies, the on-staff safety team uses Employers Resource as a supplement to their effort. We provide research on particular compliance issues associated with high risk activities.
Which Businesses Need to Worry about OSHA Compliance?
I cannot think of any business that is totally “regulation free” from at least one OSHA standard. Most businesses have several standards to contend with under the guise of providing a safe workplace. Successful OSHA compliance starts with identification of which standards apply, and then continues with developing and implementing policies, procedures, and training programs for employees.