How proper employee safety procedures can help businesses avoid a company-wide panic and costly fines during an unscheduled visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
By Lee Allphin, Employer Advantage Founder and Chairman of the Board
Far too many business owners are sent into a crushing panic if they hear, “OSHA is here!” It’s really no surprise when you consider fear of the unknown has been a leading cause of anxiety since the dawn of time. When it comes to being an employer, it is an understatement to say it’s daunting and overwhelming to keep abreast of the ever-changing safety standards and regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Under Federal Law, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers as regulated by OSHA.
The good news is, as with most things we fear, understanding what to do and how to be prepared is the antidote for quelling that distress. Employer Advantage takes pride in freeing businesses to focus on their success with our comprehensive management of Employee Administration and Compliance, which includes helping businesses create an entire OSHA-compliant culture that keeps employees safe and able to go home each night to their families.
Our more than 30 years of experience staying up to date with regulations and working with OSHA inspectors means we have a complete understanding of what they are looking for during inspections, and how they are conducted.
In addition to our extensive offering of OSHA Safety Training Courses, Personalized Safety Manuals and Safety Data Sheets, Employer Advantage makes safety managers available to conduct mock OSHA audits. We walk through a facility in the same manner as an OSHA compliance inspector and point out items needing immediate attention. We then create client- and site-specific reports with pictures showing the issues that were identified. We also explain why each item is out of compliance, the appropriate standard, and what needs to be done to bring the issue into compliance. The client gets a copy of this report to review and share with their appropriate managers so they can work together to resolve problems early. Our level of involvement is dictated by each client’s individual needs.
So, Exactly What Is OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a national public health agency dedicated to the basic proposition that no worker should have to choose between their health and safety, and their job. OSHA’s mission is to protect workers from toxic chemicals and deadly safety hazards at work, ensuring that vulnerable workers in high-risk jobs have access to critical information and education/training about job hazards. OSHA also provides employers with vigorous assistance to promote best practices, which can save lives.
If a business isn’t OSHA compliant, could it be fined, lose money, or worse?
Businesses in violation of OSHA regulations are most commonly fined or cited per incident. Though undesirable, these penalties act as a warning and provide offenders the opportunity to correct their procedures before serious injury occurs. Businesses that are cited, then found to be in violation of the same issues upon subsequent inspection, can be assessed “willful violations” which carry much stiffer fines and penalties. In addition, they could be placed on the “egregious violators” list by OSHA. This would result in more frequent OSHA inspections as well as a tarnished reputation in the eyes of potential clients and employees, who now see the guilty business as routinely putting employees in unsafe environments. Worst case scenario is that a business could be found in such severe violation of safety regulations that the business is shut down and its owners face criminal charges.
Why is it important for businesses/employers to understand OSHA?
OSHA covers private sector employers and workers in all 50 states. Contrary to popular opinion, there aren’t certain sized businesses or types of industry that are exempt from OSHA’s purview. There are different OSHA emphasis programs, but any business should expect an OSHA compliance inspector at any time. It is important for employers to know what is required of them under the OSH Act, such as maintaining manuals, conducting trainings, performing samplings of air, providing personal protective equipment, and maintaining injury and illness logs, to name a few.
What is Critical for Businesses to Understand About OSHA?
This can be summed up in four words: Employee Safety! Prevent Injuries! There are certain mandatory trainings that all employers are required to have their employees complete every year: Lock Out/Tag Out, Bloodborne Pathogens, Hazardous Communications, Emergency Action Plan, and Fire Extinguisher. There may also be others depending on the type of business. When an injury does occur, immediate action must be taken. Any employee injury requiring overnight hospitalization, or if an employee suffers an amputation or loss of eye, must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours. A fatal injury must be reported within 8 hours. Following this, inspectors will come.
When was OSHA founded, and why?
Compared to many Federal agencies, OSHA is relatively young. OSHA was established December 29, 1970, when President Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). Prior to the signing of this law, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job, but by 2016 that number had dropped to 5,190. The rate of serious workplace injuries and illnesses also dropped from 10.9 per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.9 per 100 workers in 2016. While some employers curse OSHA’s oversight, it has had significant positive impact on public health since its inception.
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About Employer Advantage
A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of HR, payroll, health and benefits, workplace safety, and more, enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own.
Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 400 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (C-PEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted.