Small businesses face many challenges, from staffing to budgeting, marketing, sales, and more. It’s easy to overlook the potential threats that come from not paying enough attention to workplace safety.
Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does focus on workplace health and safety topics. The agency develops guidelines and requirements for use by industry, and also provides a support system for employers seeking guidance and clarification on OSHA guidelines and requirements.
Use the OSHA Small Business Handbook
OSHA publishes a small business handbook to discuss workplace health and safety issues from a small business perspective. It’s available through the agency directly as well as online.
The book informs small business owners of many potential hazards and walks them through ways to reduce the risk of workplace illness or injury, which could be costly for the employer and the employee, too.
Topics include common workplace safety guidelines, methods for developing policies and procedures, and details about OSHA assistance programs.
Typical Small Business Safety Rules
OSHA’s safety guidelines cover many small businesses. They are designed to help reduce preventable workplace accidents, illnesses and injuries.
They include hanging OSHA Job Safety and Health Protection posters that publicly state employer and employee rights and responsibilities, installing signage that warns of potential hazards and indicates emergency exits, and maintaining workplace injury records on OSHA 300 logs.
There are also rules related to walkways, lights, glass, guardrails, step risers on stairs, ground fault circuit interrupters, and more, all with the goal of keeping employees safe while carrying out the regular and daily responsibilities of their job.
Develop a Culture of Workplace Safety
Employees may be more likely to buy into workplace safety if they truly believe that it’s supported by management and organizational leadership - key elements needed to develop a safety culture.
One way to demonstrate this is by carrying out hazard assessments and crafting policies, procedures, and guidelines designed to minimize risk from those hazards. Follow it up with appropriate training and drills to reinforce knowledge and understanding of risks and how to reduce exposure.
Adopt and Use PPE as Needed
Some jobs require personal protective equipment (PPE). This is safety gear that protects workers from common hazards like impact, collision, puncture, and exposure injuries. Sometimes, OSHA regulations dictate when PPE is required and how it’s used.
Employees should regularly inspect PPE before each use and notify their supervisors if flaws, defects, damage or natural wear and tear are noted. And supervisors are obligated to repair or replace PPE as needed.
Know your OSHA Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration maintains general, and in some cases, industry-specific health and safety regulations. It’s important that management teams research and understand any applicable OSHA small business regulations and follow them.
This is especially true if there is a workplace safety incident; depending on the severity of the incident and which agencies are investigating it, questions may be raised about company liability because OSHA guidelines were not met, thereby threatening employee safety unnecessarily.
OSHA small business support is a lifeline when it comes to workplace health and safety topics. The agency produces handbooks for employers to use as a resource and also provides a wealth of information online. By following OSHA regulations and developing a culture of safety, a small business will be able to minimize the risks of costly workplace illness or injury.