Business owners swap horror stories about many government agencies, unreasonable regulations and the high cost of compliance. Certainly the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been viewed as a tough taskmaster. Worker safety, however, is serious business; and OSHA offers valuable services to small businesses.
Workplace safety benefits your bottom line as well as the health of your employees. OSHA offers many services to small businesses including reactive management services, proactive services, and training and educational services. Just like your employees, these services must be properly managed for your profit.
Reactive services. Please consider proactive management before you need these services. Reactive services reduce penalties and aid in achieving compliance. Once a business is fined for safety and/or health violations, unsafe work practices, or failure to provide or use safety equipment or personal protection gear, small businesses can apply for a penalty reduction simply based on the business size.
OSHA does not want to shut down any business, but especially not small and family businesses. Through a simple application, management can request a reduced penalty which scales the intervention to an appropriate level of pain.
Proactive services. Safety requires accurate communication. OSHA offers the help of Hispanic/English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) coordinators who assist you in delivering information meaningfully. For more traditional help on a company level, OSHA provides an on-site consultation program free. An administrative inspector, not a compliance inspector, suggests equipment, personal protection and safety procedures for your individual firm.
OSHA maintains a network of Compliance Assistance Specialists (CAS) who consult with management in matters of compliance, regulations, and general worker well-being. The CAS also directly educate employees through training seminars or safety meetings.
For industry groups, OSHA’s Cooperative Programs coordinate feedback from labor, business owners, and other interested stakeholders. The cooperative programs’ goal involves prevention of fatalities, injuries and negative health issues within an industry group.
These groups are particularly valuable to new businesses because the lessons learned by others make for inexpensive education and help design work procedures from the beginning correctly (Find a Cooperative Program).
Training and education. Online resources, such as new business quick start compliance manuals, are available through the OSHA website (OSHA’s Compliance Assistance Quick Start). Some very interesting interactive electronic tools can be used online. Two particularly useful examples are the cost of injury calculator (OSHA’s $afety Pays Program) and the most frequently cited compliance issues sites (Frequently Cited OSHA Standards). These two tools relate real injury costs and highest priority compliance issues to management. OSHA offers publications specific to industries or topics online (specific topics for small businesses).
Take home messages. Manage employee safety risks proactively. Use OSHA resources to learn about industry issues and safety tips. Specialty services such as ESL are available.
Know the value of a safe work place, and make the proper investment in worker safety.