Q & A's for Small Business Employers

Establishing a safe and healthful working environment requires every employer -- large and small -- and every worker to make safety and health a top priority. 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.

OSHA's job is to provide 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.

OSHA 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 voluntary safety and health 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 do I develop this program?

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 priority. Employer and employee involvement communication on workplace and safety and health 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 safety and health 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
  • Have a penalty reduction policy for small businesses
  • 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

  • Request a free OSHA Consultation visit
  • 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. (See also OSHA publication 3071 – Job Hazard Analysis for steps in identifying and protecting against workplace hazards.)

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 is the OSHA Consultation visit you mentioned?

OSHA operates various voluntary compliance programs to assist small employers. The OSHA Consultation Service helps employers find out about potential hazards and how to improve their occupational safety and health management. A visit from OSHA consultation is always at the employer's request. The service offers workplace safety and health training and technical assistance. Consultation is a free service largely funded by OSHA and operated by state government agencies using well-trained safety and health staff. This service is completely separate from OSHA's inspection effort; no citations are issued or penalties proposed. An employer's only obligation is to correct serious hazards that the consultant finds. The visit begins with an opening conference between the consultant and the employer followed by a walkaround of the worksite. For more information on consultation services, contact your nearest OSHA office listed at the end of this publication or visit OSHA's website at www.osha.gov.

Can I get other help from OSHA?

OSHA also provides others services and assistance to help small businesses. These include the following:

  • Third-Party Training and Education -- OSHA gives training and education grants to various non-profit groups to develop programs to help small businesses establish safety and health programs. Grantees develop training programs and materials that they make available to small businesses. For more information on grants, see the Index at www.osha.gov.

  • Mentoring -- OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize worksites where employers and employees work together to achieve safety and health excellence. Small firms can be matched with and mentored by a VPP site that will share its safety and health experience and expertise. For more information on VPP, contact your VPP coordinator in your nearest OSHA regional office.

  • Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) -- Part of the Consultation Program, SHARP also recognizes exemplary employers who take special pride in providing a safe and healthful work environment for their employees and who meet specific program criteria. Employers who qualify receive a 1-year exemption from OSHA's general schedule inspections.

  • Training and Education -- OSHA's Training Institute in Des Plaines, IL, and OSHA's Training Education Centers across the country provide basic and advanced courses in safety and health. OSHA's area offices offer information services, such as audiovisual aids, technical advice, and speakers for special engagements. For more information, contact the Institute at 1555 Times Drive, Des Plaines, IL 60018, (847) 297-4810, or fax (847) 297-4874. A list of courses also can be found under Outreach at www.osha.gov. Note, in particular, OSHA's computer-based training software -- Expert Advisors -- on topics such as hazard communication, asbestos, cadmium, confined spaces, fire safety, lead in construction, and more! See the Index on OSHA's home page for this and other information.

  • 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.

  • Electronic Information/Internet -- OSHA standards, interpretations, directives, interactive software, compliance assistance materials, e-Tools, and additional information are available or can be ordered online at www.osha.gov. See also, OSHA's online small business page.

  • CD-ROM -- Directives, standards, interpretations, and other materials on CD. Available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954 or at (202) 512-1800. Specify OSHA Regulations, Documents, and Technical Information on CD-ROM, (ORDT), Order No. S/N729-013-00000-5; $45 per year and $21 per single copy. Issued quarterly.

  • Publications -- OSHA has many published materials, including specific topics for small businesses, that are available or can be ordered online at www.osha.gov. Publications lists and single copies of various OSHA materials can be obtained by sending a self-addressed label to the OSHA Publications Office, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N-3101, Washington, DC 20210, or by calling (202) 693-1888.

Of particular interest may be publications in OSHA's Small Business Safety and Health Management Series, which along with other materials, are available online at OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. They include, for example, Assessing the Need for Personal Protective Equipment: A Guide for Small Business Employers (OSHA 3151); Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Workers from Amputations (OSHA 3170); and A Guide to Scaffold Use in the Construction Industry (3150). These booklets also are sold by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, phone (202) 512-1800; fax (202) 512-2250, and can be ordered online through GPO's website at www.gpo.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.

  • Small Business Liaison -- OSHA's liaison is available to answer questions on small business issues at (202) 693-2213 or visit OSHA's small business page. See Small Business under the Index on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. See also the OSHA Regional Office list elsewhere in this publication.

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

Small Business Development Centers

OSHA is working closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Small Business Development Centers program to provide information on OSHA and its many programs available to small business owners. There is at least one center in every state -- a total of 1,000 nationwide -- that provides services to small businesses. For a center near you, visit SBA's website at www.sba.gov.

OSHA Regional Offices
(OSHA has small business liaisons available in each of its regions to assist you.)

Region I
(CT,* MA, ME, NH, RI, VT*)
JKF Federal Building, Room E-340
Boston, MA 02203
Telephone: (617) 565-9860

Region II
(NJ,* NY,* PR,* VI*)
201 Varick Street, Room 670
New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (212) 337-2357

Region III
(DC, DE, MD,* PA, VA,* WV)
The Curtis Center, Suite 740 West
170 S. Independence Mall West
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3309
Telephone: (215) 861-4900

Region IV
(AL, FL, GA, KY,* MS, NC,* SC,* TN*)
Sam Nun Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, SW, Room 6T50
Atlanta, GA 30303
Telephone: (404) 562-2300

Region V
(IL, IN,* MI,* MN,* OH, WI)
230 South Dearborn Street
Room 3244
Chicago, IL 60604
Telephone: (312) 353-2220

Region VI
(AR, LA, NM,* OK, TX)
525 Griffin Street, Room 602
Dallas, TX 75202
Telephone: (214) 767-4731

Region VII
(IA,* KS, MO, NE)
City Center Square
1100 Main Street, Suite 800
Kansas City, MO 64105
Telephone: (816) 426-5861

Region VIII
(CO, MT, ND, SD, UT,* WY*)
1999 Broadway, Suite 1690
Denver, CO 80201-6550
Telephone: (303) 844-1600

Region IX
(American Samoa, AZ,* CA,* Guam, HI,*
NV,* Trust Territories of the Pacific)
71 Stevenson Street, Suite 420
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone: (415) 975-4310

Region X
(AK,* ID, OR,* WA*)
1111 Third Avenue, Suite 715
Seattle, WA 98101-3212
Telephone: (206) 553-5930

* These states and territories operate their own OSHA-approved job safety and health programs (Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York plans cover public employees only). States with approved programs must have a standard that is identical to, or at least as effective as, the federal standard.