How to Stay OSHA Compliant

DATE: 23rd October, 2017

How to Stay OSHA Compliant

After a series of public outcries against workplace accidents and injuries with no legal recourse, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1971. Covering all fifty states plus U.S. territories, businesses were encouraged to provide ergonomic, safe, and healthy working conditions for their employees as determined by OSHA -- a policy and administration that operates to this day.

And while the regulations have since spelled trouble for some businesses, it’s worked successfully for the betterment of the average American worker. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “the U.S. occupational injury rate is 40 percent lower than when OSHA opened for business in 1971. [Similarly], deaths from occupational injuries are at an all-time low -- 60 percent lower than 30 years ago.”

How to prep your facility

It’s an important standard of compliance, but if you’re just striking out and opening your first restaurant or storefront, it can be difficult to know how to stay within the rule of law. With that, here are some practices to avoid penalties and fines:

  • Provide a workplace free from “serious recognized hazards”. This can be anything from dangerous chemicals, to sharp tools, to operating heavy machinery / equipment without proper safety provisions.
  • Establish chemical safety. In regard to chemicals, “employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions (and a copy of safety data sheets must be readily available).” Additional information on these precautions can be found here.
  • Establish guidelines for staff. Establish regular practices and standards, and provide safety and training for all employees on the job so they know how and what to follow.
  • Record all information. Keep a detailed record of all work-related illnesses and injuries.
  • Provide documentation. According to OSHA, “provide employees, former employees and their representatives access to the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.”
  • What to do when cited. If you receive a citation for a violation, post the citation publicly near work area involved. The citation must be corrected within three business days.

Understanding inspections

Aside from workplace injuries and citations, OSHA also does regular inspections to ensure workplace safety and security. Since OSHA can’t physically inspect all 7 million businesses annually, they designate inspections from order of highest priority (highest risk) to lowest priority (lowest risk). Those under the designation of lowest risk often see inspections on a bi-annual basis.

If you do get inspected:

  1. Be sure you display OSHA regulations at common areas -- break rooms, kitchens, etc. -- as that is a key requirement that OSHA inspectors look for first.
  2. The compliance officer will conduct a walk-around using the appropriate safety gear (given the location’s practices and standards), and will conduct employee interviews to determine who will function as their workplace representative.
  3. Once they get started, they’ll walk around, inspecting the workspace and pointing out violations on site.
    • a. “While the law requires that these hazards must still be cited, prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer. Compliance officers try to minimize work interruptions during the inspection and will keep confidential any trade secrets they observe.”
  4. If, after the inspection, you do receive violations, it is in every employers best interest to correct and report the correction within three business days or as designated by the compliance officer.
    • a. If you feel this violation is incorrect, you can make an appeal to the OSHA Area Director to discuss and mitigate citations.

This list is just the baseline for where to get started when it comes to OSHA compliance. In reality, there are a ton of rules when it comes to complying with OSHA -- much more than listed in this article. For a full list of OSHA requirements, consult with your legal team or HR department to ensure proper management and follow-through or visit their website here.