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Cashins & Associates Blog

Safety and Health: Does OSHA Apply to Small Businesses?

Posted by Eileen Watkins on Thu, Sep, 25, 2014 @ 11:09 AM

small_business_graphicAre you a small business owner?  If you answered "yes", then consider these next questions:  do OSHA regulations and standards apply to your company?  Can OSHA inspect your small business for safety and health issues? The short answer is "yes".  Read on to learn about some small business exemptions and limitations which make the long answer "yes, but...."

Let's start with some clear-cut rules.  In brief, OSHA has jurisdiction over private sector businesses, regardless of the number of people on the payroll.  It does not cover self-employed individuals or farmers who employ only immediate family members. 

OSHA's standards are intended to protect construction, agriculture, maritime, and general industry workers.  "General industry" is defined as businesses that don't fall into the other 3 categories, so you can see that virtually all businesses, including small businesses, are regulated by OSHA.

OSHA__DOL_sign-1Small business owners need to be aware of 2 important OSHA exemptions.  The first applies to all businesses that employ 10 or fewer employees and the second applies to some businesses having 10 or fewer employees.

Businesses with 10 or fewer employees are not required to keep workplace injury and illness records per OSHA's Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Standard, 29 CFR 1904.1 unless OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics informs you in writing that you need to do so.  Note:  this is a partial exemption from one requirement in 29 CFR 1904 - read the standard in its entirety in order to understand the requirements that you must comply with.

The second exemption prohibits certain OSHA enforcement actions which would otherwise be aimed at small employers in low-hazard industries.  It also effects small farming operations, although they are not addressed in this article. 

Which "small, low hazard" businesses qualify for this exemption? In this case small business means companies that currently employ 10 or fewer employees - and had 10 or fewer employees at all times during the last 12 months. In addition, if the lost workday case rate (also known as DART*) for your primary NAICS** code is below the all-industry national average, then you are classified as a low-hazard industry. You can find the complete listing of NAICS codes which belong to this category in OSHA's Compliance Directive CPL-02-00-051.  

Companies meeting the small business and low-hazard industries definitions are exempt from OSHA programmed safety inspections.  It's important to note that you are not exempt from all OSHA inspections - you are only exempt from programmed safety inspections.  These are inspections which OSHA intentionally identifies and which focus on safety hazards (such as machinery and equipment which can cause amputations).

OSHA is permitted to perform the following inspections or take other actions authorized by the OSH Act in all small businesses, including small businesses in low hazard industries:

  • Programmed health hazard inspections (such as crystalline silica, lead, and hexavalent chromium)
  • Inspections in response to employee complaints
  • Alleged imminent danger situations
  • Workplace fatalities involving 1 or more employees or overnight hospitalizations of 2 or more employees

Use the link above to consult the Compliance Directive for more details regarding the small business, low hazard exemption. 

Do you need help determining which OSHA regulations and standards apply to your small business?  How would your company fare during an OSHA inspection?  Cashins & Associates can help protect your workers and minimize your liabilities.  Click on the icon below to submit your inquiry now!

* Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred from the job due to a workplace injury or illness

** North American Industry Classification System

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