The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is responsible for promoting workplace safety across several industries. It covers most organizations that have employees, but there are some exemptions. Certain small businesses don’t have to follow OSHA regulations and requirements if they don’t want to.
However, since most regulations keep workers safe, it is not a bad idea to implement them. Doing so cuts costs and prevents injuries on the job. Even though small businesses are not fined for violations, implementing certain safety rules can prove to be a good business decision in the long run.
For that purpose, OSHA offers a number of resources that can suit small business owners. This includes a free consultation service that can help them identify common workplace hazards. The service also helps inexperienced entrepreneurs cope with challenging regulations and improve safety and health across the board.
OSHA Exceptions for small businesses
Exemption from maintaining illness and injury records
This is not to say that OSHA holds these businesses strictly accountable for upholding safety regulations. Understanding the challenges small firms may face the organization offers them exceptions.
For instance, businesses that have 10 or less than 10 workers do not need to maintain injury and illness records unless the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells them to. Similarly, if a small business is involved in a low hazard finance, insurance, real estate or retail industry, they don’t have to maintain these records unless the government asks them to.
However, whether they need to maintain those reports or not, all workplace incidents that result in fatalities or hospitalization of 3 or more workers have to be reported to OSHA.
When it comes to determining penalties for violations, OSHA takes the size of a business into account among other things. This involves detailed procedures that are mentioned in the Field Inspection Reference Manual (FIRM). The FIRM reduces penalties for certain businesses according to the following criteria:
- 40% reduction if the business has between 26 and 100 employees.
- 60% reduction if the business has 25 or less employees.
- 20% reduction if the business has between 101 and 250 employees.
In addition, businesses that meet the low hazard and small business definitions are also exempt from safety inspections conducted by OSHA. These are inspections which the regulatory authority does intentionally and which focus on occupational safety hazards.
OSHA is also allowed to conduct inspections or take action as per the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH ACT) in certain small enterprises and even those that belong to low hazard industries. This includes imposing:
- Health hazard inspections for lead, crystalline silica and other hazards.
- Inspections as per employee complaints
- Inspections based on situations that pose imminent dangers.
- Investigations on workplace fatalities that involve more than 1 worker or hospitalization of 2 or more workers.
In other words, while small businesses are exempt from some OSHA regulations, they can be held liable if they neglect workplace safety in the long run. The only organizations that are not covered by those regulations are federal/state facilities and very few small businesses. Even they have to ensure their workers have a safe work environment even if they don’t have to pay penalties.
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