Am I covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?

The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. OSHA covers most private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program. Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state program. Four additional states and one U.S. territory have OSHA-approved plans that cover public sector workers only. State-run health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program. If your business employees 10 employees or more during a calendar year, you are regulated by OSHA and MUST follow certain sections of the law.

Those not covered by the OSH Act include: self-employed workers, immediate family members of farm employers, and workers whose hazards are regulated by another federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, or Coast Guard).

How much does an accident cost?

In addition to their social costs, workplace injuries and illnesses have a major impact on an employer’s bottom line. It has been estimated that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone. The costs of workplace injuries and illnesses include direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services. Examples of indirect costs include training replacement employees, accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

Average Comprehensive Cost by Injury Severity, 2010
  • Death $4,360,000
  • Incapacitating injury $220,300
  • Nonincapacitating evident injury $56,200
  • Injury requiring a doctors care $26,700
  • Minor injury requiring only first aid $2,400

Establishing a safe and healthful working environment requires every employer — large and small — and every worker to make safety and health a core value. The entire work force — from the CEO to the most recent hire — must recognize that worker safety and health is central to the mission and key to the profitability of the American company.

OSG provides leadership and encouragement to workers and employers to take that responsibility seriously. We continue to help employers and employees focus on reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities and to increase their commitment to improved safety and health.

Our Safety Guy can help small businesses and others through a variety of tools, including partnership, consultation, compliance assistance, education and training, outreach, and plain language regulations.

Why is safety and health important for a small business owner like me?

Safety is good business. An effective safety and health program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested. It’s the right thing to do, and doing it right pays off in lower costs, increased productivity, and higher employee morale.

As an employer, you have a duty to protect your workers from injury and illness on the job. Protecting workers also makes good business sense. Accidents and injuries are more expensive than many realize. Costs mount up quickly. But substantial savings in workers’ compensation and lost workdays are possible when injuries and illnesses decline. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can help you.

How can I reduce employee injuries and illnesses?

Compliance with OSHA rules is essential. Compliance along with an effective health & safety program can help reduce your costs and injuries and illnesses. An organized, carefully crafted plan that systematically focuses on workplace hazards and employee training is critical. Buy-in from every manager and employee is essential. Everyone has to work at safety and health.

How can Our Safety Guy help develop these programs?

Each safety and health program should be tailored to fit the company, to blend with its unique operations and culture, and to help employers maintain a system that continually addresses workplace hazards. There are five elements that every effective program should have: management leadership and employee participation, workplace analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training and education, and program evaluation.

What do you mean by management leadership and employee participation?

Employers and employees work together to make safety and health a value. Employer and employee involvement communication on workplace and health & safety issues are essential. For example, this partnership can be achieved when you:

  • Post the company’s written safety and health policy for all to see
  • Involve employees in policymaking on safety and health issues
  • Take an active part in safety activities
  • Hold meetings that focus on employee safety and health
  • Abide by all health & safety rules
  • Show your commitment by investing time, effort, and money in your safety and health program.
What is SBREFA?

In 1996, the Congress passed the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, or SBREFA, to help small businesses. Under SBREFA, OSHA must

  • Produce Small Entity Compliance Guides for OSHA rules with a significant impact on a substantial number of small businesses
  • Be responsive to small business inquiries about compliance with regulations
  • Submit final rules to the Congress for review
  • Involve small businesses in the development of some proposed rules through Small Business Advocacy Review Panels.
  • In addition, SBREFA also gives small businesses expanded authority to recover attorneys’ fees and costs when a federal agency has been found to be excessive in enforcing federal regulations. The legislation also establishes 10 Small Business Regulatory Fairness Boards to receive comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities and report these findings annually to the Congress.

Note: If you are a small business, you may participate in the regulatory process and comment on OSHA enforcement actions by calling the Small Business Ombudsman at 1-888-REG-FAIR.

What’s a worksite analysis and how often do I have to do it?

A worksite analysis means that you and your employees analyze all worksite conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards. This should be done on a regular and timely basis. There should be a current hazard analysis for all jobs and processes that all employees know and understand. To do this, it is helpful to

  • Become aware of hazards in your industry
  • Create safety teams
  • Encourage employees to report workplace hazards
  • Examine history of worksite conditions
  • Have an adequate system for reporting hazards
  • Have trained personnel conduct inspections of the worksite and correct hazards
  • Ensure that any changes in process or new high-hazard facilities are reviewed by a competent person
  • Seek assistance from safety and health experts
After I identify hazards at my worksite, how can I prevent or control them?

The next part of a good safety and health program is your continual review of your work environment and work practices to control or prevent workplace hazards. This can be done when you

  • Regularly and thoroughly maintain equipment
  • Ensure that hazard correction procedures are in place
  • Ensure that employees know how to use and maintain personal protective equipment
  • Ensure that all employees understand and follow safe work procedures
  • Make sure that, where necessary, you have a medical program tailored to your facility to help prevent workplace hazards and exposures.
What else can I do to minimize potential accidents and injuries?

It is important that everyone in the workplace be properly trained, from the floor worker to the supervisors, managers, contractors, and part-time and temporary employees. This can be done when you

  • Allow only properly authorized and instructed employees to do any job
  • Make sure no employees do any job that appears unsafe
  • Hold emergency preparedness drills for employees
  • Pay particular attention to employees learning new operations to make sure they have the proper job skills and awareness of hazards
  • Train supervisors and managers to recognize hazards and understand their responsibilities
  • Encourage all employees to report any hazardous conditions to their supervisors.
What are the State & Federal Regulations?

State Plans — Twenty-four states and two territories operate their own federally approved occupational safety and health programs. These entities conduct most OSHA enforcement through their own standards, which are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s, but may have different or additional requirements. Many states offer additional programs of assistance to small businesses. For more information on state plans, see the list of plans at the end of this brochure or visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.

OSHA regulations are contained in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 1904 (Recordkeeping), 1910 (General Industry), 1915 through 1925 (Maritime), 1926 (Construction), and 1928 (Agriculture). All OSHA regulations are available or can be ordered online at www.osha.gov. Printed copies of OSHA regulations are sold by the Government Printing Office and can be ordered online as indicated above.

Emergencies — For life-threatening situations only, call (800) 321-OSHA. Complaints will go immediately to the nearest OSHA area or state office for help.