What is OSHA and What Does OSHA Stand For?

To responsibly manage your small business, it’s important to understand what OSHA is and adapt your business practices to comply with those standards. By doing this, you can maintain a safe and ethical work environment for your employees. 


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What is OSHA and its purpose?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government agency that operates within the United States Department of Labor and protects employees in both the public and private sectors. 


OSHA laws state that employers must maintain a safe working environment for their employees. This might include providing personal protective equipment, getting rid of potential workplace hazards, adequately training employees or giving employees free medical testing.


Types of businesses affected by OSHA regulations

OSHA regulations affect a variety of public and private sector businesses, and different rules apply depending on the industry. Here are the types of businesses affected by OSHA regulations as mentioned in their record-keeping guidelines:


Businesses with 10 or more employees

If your business has 10 or more employees, OSHA requires you to complete and submit an annual injury and illness report


Low-hazard industry businesses

Low-hazard industries include retail, insurance, service, finance and real estate. Because businesses in these areas don’t usually work with dangerous equipment or in potentially risky situations, according to OSHA, they only need to report specific incidents instead of a full injury and illness report. 


Maritime businesses

Maritime businesses include those that work in shipyards, complete longshoring tasks and build, repair or scrap ships. OSHA requires employers to adhere to maritime operational guidelines that promote workplace safety. Here are some examples of things employers must ensure:


  • Longshoring equipment safety and training
  • Employee shipyard safety and training
  • Equipment inspection before and after use

OSHA regulations require businesses to avoid the following:

  • Chances of slips, trips and falls
  • Fire hazards
  • Hazardous chemical exposure
  • Infectious disease exposure

Construction businesses

Construction businesses construct or repair bridges, roads, buildings and other types of infrastructure. OSHA measures safety for construction workers through the following regulations:


  • Inform employees about toxic chemicals and hazards they could encounter at each job site before starting.
  • Monitor asbestos exposure.
  • Provide water and restroom facilities for employees.
  • Give employees construction equipment training and general safety education.
  • Facilitate first aid and medical attention for employees in the event of an accident.
  • Implement fall protection methods.
  • Ensure on-site communication during building procedures.

Agricultural businesses

Agricultural businesses harvest crops or raise livestock. As mentioned on the United States Department of Labor’s website, OSHA regulates agricultural operations, including safety for farm workers, animals and animal products through the following methods:


  • Agricultural equipment safety education
  • General environmental controls
  • Fall prevention guidelines
  • Hygiene education for field workers or those working with livestock
  • Monitoring pesticides’ effects on workers, animals or crops
  • Ensuring workers’ access to food, water and restrooms 

General industry businesses

General industry businesses include any businesses outside of the maritime, construction or agriculture industries. Examples include healthcare or manufacturing businesses. For general industry businesses, OSHA sets standards, including: 


  • Employee education and training
  • Employee input about work standards
  • Management dedication to promoting workplace safety
  • Hazard identification and assessment
  • Hazard prevention and control
  • Program evaluation and improvement


Things small businesses must do to meet OSHA requirements

OSHA has a small business handbook to help you navigate their expectations for your business. According to the handbook, here is a list of items OSHA expects from small businesses to meet their requirements:


  • Strive to give employees a safe work environment.
  • Ensure the safety of work equipment and tools.
  • Provide safety training to employees.
  • Mark potential hazards with color-coded signs.
  • Post an OSHA citation at any hazardous site until the hazard’s removal.
  • Hang an OSHA poster within the workplace so employees can review their rights.
  • Record all injuries and illnesses that occur on the premises.
  • Notify your local OSHA office of work-related fatalities within eight hours of the incident.
  • Give medical exams to employees as instructed by OSHA.
  • Give employees and their representatives access to their medical records and company illness and injury records.
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