[Initially published in January 2016, Air & Waste Management Lake Michigan States Section Newsletter at http://www.vmrtechnologies.net/lmawma/newsletters/Jan2016%20Newsletter.pdf]
Some businesses may wonder why, when they have a good safety record, they need to regularly check the OSHA standards to see if they have missed any OSHA standards that apply to their business. Business operations, regulations, and agency priorities change, so it makes sense to review the OSHA standards at least annually for changes that affect business requirements. One way to look at safety risk is through the lens of the experience of others. A review of the “Top 10 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards” is typically compiled each year by OSHA. Looking at that list for a given year can provide some insight into OSHA’s priorities and possibly new regulations. Only the business itself can determine if their operations have changed, of course.
One commonly held misconception regarding the reach of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is that OSHA’s regulations do not apply to businesses that have fewer than 10 full-time employees. Although some OSHA standards are less likely to apply to low hazard businesses, and there are some reduced requirements for employers with less than 10 employees, OSHA’s rules do apply to all businesses. Another misconception is that the 10 employees have to all be at the same location for rules to apply.
Having said that, situations do exist where OSHA offers some regulatory relief for employers with less than 10 employees. One example of this includes a business required to have an Emergency Action Plan (29 CFR 1910.38) or Fire Prevention Plan (29 CFR 1910.39). Instead of having employees with these written plans, “the employer with 10 or fewer employees may communicate the plan orally.” A second example is related to injury tracking. Employers with fewer than 10 employees are not required to keep OSHA injury and illness records. However, based on recent changes to OSHA injury reporting requirements, it is important to note that these businesses would still be required to report employee injuries that result in a severe injury, such as a fatality, amputation, or hospitalization.
Another important nuance related to OSHA requirements is that the first step to compliance is to determine whether or not the state where a business is located has OSHA authority. In Illinois, since 2009, only state and local government employees are covered by a State Plan. Federal OSHA applies to Federal public sector workplaces (including the Postal Service) and all private sector workplaces in Illinois and Wisconsin. About half of the states in the United States are referred to as “State Plan States.” These states have OSHA-authorized safety programs that take the place of OSHA regulations.
Below are links to topics on OSHA’s website (www.OSHA.gov) that are related to the items discussed in this article. OSHA’s website contains a wealth of information; however sometimes finding the desired information requires patience. There are two important items to keep in mind when looking at documents on OSHA’s website. First, be sure to check the date when a document was published. Sometimes, a document may still be relevant and useful, but it may not have been updated to the current regulations. Second, even if OSHA publications are identified as “small business” tools, larger businesses can still benefit. Small business focused materials usually start with the basics of which types of business have to comply and what is required for compliance.
Federal OSHA standards apply in Illinois and Wisconsin. Indiana and Michigan have OSHA-approved State Plans (www.osha.gov/dcsp/ osp/) that cover both private and public sector workers.”
Free OSHA Resources
OSHA-required Workplace Poster available for download
OSHA Small Business Handbook with Self-inspection Checklist
List of State Plans
OSHA Commonly Used Statistics including “Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated”
OSHA Recordkeeping Rule Updates
Comprehensive list of OSHA Publications that can be either ordered for free or downloaded
Small Entity Compliance Guide for Employers that Use Hazardous Chemicals