OSHA protects employers and employees of over 7 million businesses. They are a branch of the federal government that puts workplace laws into effect and enforces them.
You may have heard the name OSHA, yet you may be asking ‘what is OSHA?’ How does OSHA affect small businesses? Let’s take a closer look so that you don’t have to wonder anymore.
What is OSHA?
OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it has been part of the United States Department of Labor since 1970. The OSHA website says that they cover most private sector employers/employees, and do not cover some public sector employers/employees with state and local government agencies. OSHA covers businesses with more than one employee.
OSHA has jurisdiction over millions of workplaces, over 7 million. Their mission is to help protect workers, their health, their workplace rights, and to save lives through safety standards in the workplace. Before OSHA, there were no national laws for health and safety.
OSHA sends out large and colorful posters that employers must post in areas where employees can see them. It is good to place these posters in employee breakrooms or where staff clock in daily. Businesses get these for free via mail or have a print made from OHSA online download.
The most common OSHA poster covers basic labor laws. Another common poster covers the OSHA hazardous material color codes.
OSHA has broken hazardous materials safety protocols up into color codes. These color codes can help small businesses stay organized.
- Red- Fire/danger
- Yellow- Reactivity/physical hazard
- Blue- Caution/out of service
- Green- Location of safety equipment
- Purple- Radiation
- Orange- dangerous parts of a machine
- Black & white- Traffic
Some numbers apply to the colors, breaking the hazardous materials into severity levels. The numbers go from four all the way down to zero.
Not every workplace will have an OSHA inspection. They tend to target the higher hazard environments for random and scheduled inspections. A workplace with imminent dangers and hazards to the employees has a better chance of being inspected.
Also, those that have a history of citations or employee complaints may have inspections more often, or more thoroughly than those that do not. Reoccuring workplace illnesses, hospitalizations, and even fatalities can attract the attention of OSHA and demand an inspection, charges, fines, and perhaps a shutdown. Inspections may be scheduled and expected or a surprise.
During an OSHA inspection, the officer conducting the inspection will review in detail the history of a facility and its citations (if any), they will also go over the standard operating procedures.
After OSHA inspections, if there have been any citations issued, these citations must be posted in an area where employees can see them, particularly in the area where the violation has occurred. This is done to raise awareness of the citation and to prevent it from happening in the future. When an employer receives a citation, they may also have to pay a fine to OSHA.
The responsibilities of an employer to be OSHA compliant can be found here. This includes learning all of the OSHA rules and making sure that they are being observed.
To set employees up for success, there must be certain tools provided, dangers prevented, and procedures set in place. Certain updates may need to be made to keep in compliance.
Employers must also keep accurate records of any workplace injuries and even illnesses. Small businesses with low-hazard risks and 10 employees or less could be exempt from having to keep these records.
If any employee files a complaint or a claim, the employer may not retaliate against them in any way. There can be no demotion, termination of employment, harassment, or reduction of hours or wages. This also goes for what is called a whistleblower, which is someone who has not been injured but has reported an OSHA violation.
How does OSHA benefit small business employers? For one, they lay the ground rules for workplace safety and workplace management. This helps to keep everyone safe in the workplace and create some type of organization to protect both employers and employees.
The responsibilities of an employee in an OSHA workplace are first to read over the OSHA rules and regulations and abide by them. Not only do employees have to follow the rules, but they also have the responsibility to make sure that their employer is abiding by them, too.
Employees benefit from OSHA in many ways. The biggest benefit is that employees are protected from safety hazards in the workplace, and their rights are defended under OSHA laws. If they are injured in any way OSHA defends them against their workplace and fights for their rights.
When should an employee return to work after being injured on the job? Injuries are bound to happen, it is when you can return to work that matters to your bank account.
Every employee has the right to be informed of the laws that affect them. OSHA laws must be translated into the language that employee speaks, and the same goes for any violations that they may commit.
As an employee, they have the right to report their workplace of any violations. They may call, fax or e-mail any complaints, and also ask for an inspection to be performed to investigate the violations.
Employees and Inspections
During an OSHA inspection, employees have the right to have their representative be an active part of the inspection. They also have the right to speak with the investigator privately, away from the employer.
In general, OSHA does not cover volunteers in the workplace. Unless a volunteer is paid or compensated in some way they may not be able to benefit from any coverage that OSHA provides. If they get hurt or have their rights violated in any way they may not be able to claim OSHA. but in some cases, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) may protect the volunteers that are not covered under OSHA.
Filing an OSHA Complaint
When an employee notices a safety hazard or an OSHA law violation they can file an official complaint with OSHA. Complaints can not be submitted anonymously. Employers will be notified of the complaint and also of the employee who submitted the complaint.
Discrimination in the workplace includes unfair treatment because of race, gender, religion, and other factors. Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not deal with discrimination or any types of harassment other than whistleblower harassment. For that, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) should be contacted.
Some job positions and certain employers may require OSHA certification. Construction workers are included in this list because of the dangerous nature of the job.
It is the right of an employee to have on-site job-specific training, and it is the responsibility of the employer to provide the opportunity to become OSHA certified. The employer will pay for employees to become OSHA certified.
OSHA 10 vs OSHA 30
As for OSHA certification, there are 12 different levels. Not all OSHA certifications are the same. the most common OSHA cards are the 10 and the 30.
OSHA 10 is a program that can be completed in 10 hours and the certificate is good for five years. The course covers the basics of workplace safety. There are 40 questions on the final exam and requires a score of at least 70% to pass.
OSHA 30 is a training program that is completed in 30 hours. There is an in-depth study on safety and disaster prevention covered. The final exam has 100 questions on it, and when passed the certificate (unlike the OSHA 10 card) does not expire, but is recommended to renew it every 3-5 years for updates and refreshing.
OSHA 10 certification is appropriate for basic level workers whereas OSHA 30 is better suited for supervisors and high-risk employees who deal with hazardous materials. After the completion of the program, participants will receive an OSHA certificate card, and their renewal must be completed before their certification expiration date.
States That Require OSHA Training
Some states have made it mandatory for Outreach Training to be provided for certain workers. This is not a nationwide mandate. Here are the states that have the mandatory requirements:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Even though each of these states requires OSHA training, they have different specifics. The requirement varies on job site sizes and contract prices. It is believed that any state not on this list will eventually have its own OSHA certification requirements.
For businesses that deal with hazardous substances, there are specific requirements. A hazardous material is any substance that can cause a physical health hazard. Chemicals and pharmaceuticals are included, but not limited to the list of hazardous substances.
Taking Care of Small Business
Spend less time worrying about your small business, and more time educating yourself on everything to do with small business. Hopefully, you are not still wondering ‘what is OSHA’- OSHA is there to help you and your employees.
If you want to learn more about subjects relating to your small business check out these informative blog posts on Advantage Insurance Solutions’ site.