Benefits for Small Businesses
OSHA considers the size of the employer, among other factors when determining the penalty to be proposed for any violation. The Agency’s procedures for penalty reduction based on size are currently embodied in Chapter IV of the Field Inspection Reference Manual (FIRM; OSHA Instruction CPL 2.103), which is conveyed to and followed by all enforcement staff.
The FIRM provides that proposed penalties will be reduced by the following percentages for smaller employers: a penalty reduction of 60 percent may be applied if an employer has 25 employees or fewer; 40 percent if the employer has 26-100 employees; and 20 percent if the employer has 101-250 employees.
OSHA also has fewer recordkeeping requirements for very small business. Employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from most OSHA recordkeeping requirements for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses.
Consultation offers free help in identifying workplace hazards and establishing or improving safety and health management systems corporate-wide. Employers in high-hazard industries or involved in hazardous operations receive priority. Largely funded by OSHA, consultation programs are run by state agencies and offer an array of services.
Key Services offered by Consultation:
- Help in recognizing hazards in the workplace.
- Suggested approaches or options for solving a safety or health problem.
- Sources of help available to a company needing further assistance.
- Written reports that summarize the findings of on-site reviews of safety and health.
- Assistance in developing or maintaining an effective safety and health management system.
- Training and education for a small business and its employees at the workplace and, in some cases, away from the worksite.
- Recognition by OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).
An effective workplace safety and health management system at a small business worksite(s) will enable the small employer to:
- Recognize and remove hazards from the worksite.
- Protect an employer’s workers from injury and illness.
- Prevent loss of life at an employer’s worksite.
- Cultivate informed and alert employees who take responsibility for their own and their coworkers’ safety and for worksite safety as a whole.
- Improve employee morale.
An increased understanding of workplace hazards and remedies will put small business managers in a better position to:
- Comply with federal and state safety and health requirements.
- Become more effective at their jobs. Management experts believe that the company with a well-managed safety and health system enjoys better overall management.
- Increase productivity rates and assure product quality.
An exemplary workplace safety and health management system is good business sense that also makes financial sense because it will allow a small business to:
- Learn first-hand that the cost of accident prevention is far lower than the cost of accidents.
- Improve the bottom line by:
- Lowering injury and illness rates.
- Decreasing workers’ compensation costs.
- Reducing lost workdays.
- Limiting equipment damage and product losses.
Though SHARP, the Consultation Program recognizes exemplary employers who take special pride in providing a safe and healthful working environment for their employees and who meet specific program criteria. Employers who qualify receive a 1-year exemption from OSHA’s general schedule inspections. After 1 year of certification, the small employer may request renewal for 1 or 2 years, provided the site meets specific program criteria.
The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.
In September 2001, Assistant Secretary Henshaw challenged VPP and the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) to double the number of small businesses participating in VPP over the next three years.
Both VPP and VPPPA are working hard to help small businesses enjoy the benefits of its program. VPP policy provides small businesses with alternative documentation requirements more appropriate to their size, and the VPPPA has formed mentoring committees to increase assistance to small businesses. VPPPA’s annual conference includes workshops specifically addressing VPP for small businesses. As a result of these efforts, in Fiscal Year 2002 VPP experienced a 14% increase in small business participation in the program.
The OSHA Compliance Assistance webpages provide an easy-to-use listing of OSHA’s compliance assistance materials. A feature under development, called Industry Sector Quick Start, will help small businesses with an initial set of key OSHA compliance assistance material and introduce small businesses to the tools on the OSHA website.
- Compliance Assistance CD-ROM. OSHA Regional Offices have distributed regional versions of this CD-ROM, which is based on the Compliance Assistance Internet web page. OSHA is working to develop this into a national product, which will include the Industry Sector Quick Start feature.
- Ergonomics Web Page: The Ergonomics Outreach and Assistance page on OSHA’s website provides assistance to businesses, particularly small businesses, and helps them proactively address ergonomic issues in the workplace.
Each OSHA Area Office in states under federal jurisdiction has a Compliance Assistance Specialist. These staffers respond to requests for help from a variety of groups, including small businesses. CAS’s put on seminars and workshops for small businesses and other groups. They promote OSHA’s cooperative programs, OSHA’s training resources, and the OSHA web site.
OSHA Alliances are the agency’s newest form of cooperative programs. Alliances enable organizations committed to reducing workplace injuries and illnesses to collaborate with OSHA to reach out to, educate, and lead the nation’s employers and their employees in improving and advancing workplace safety and health. Compliance assistance resources produced by various Alliances benefit small businesses. For example, OSHA’s Alliance with the Tree Care Industry Association will produce training materials and promote OSHA’s compliance assistance resources for tree care companies, many of which are small businesses.
The OSHA Small Business Handbook is being updated and revised and should be available to the public later in 2003. One of OSHA’s most requested publications, this handbook assists small business employers in meeting the legal requirements imposed by the OSH Act of 1970 and in creating and maintaining effective safety and health management systems. Revisions to the handbook incorporated the comments and suggestions of small business employers and small business trade organizations from across the country. The updated handbook will be available both on the OSHA webpage and in hard copy from OSHA’s Publications Office at 800-321-OSHA. (The current handbook can be downloaded from the opening page of the Small Business website).
A Memorandum of Undersanding (MOU) was signed between OSHA and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of the Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman on November 21, 2002 to promote the dissemination of ergonomics outreach materials.
OSHA is working with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) program to make information on OSHA and its many programs available to small business owners. SBDCs provide up-to-date counseling, training, and technical assistance in all aspects of small business management. In addition to making special efforts to reach socially and economically disadvantaged groups, veterans, women, and the disabled, other services include, but are not limited to, assisting small businesses with financial, marketing, production, organization, engineering and technical problems, and feasibility studies. There is at least one center in every state – over 1,000 nationwide – providing services to small businesses. [For a list of centers, visit SBA’s website at http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/2/3112.]
- OSHA was an exhibitor at the Association of Small Business Development Centers’ (ASBDC) National Conference in Nashville in September 2002, and created for the event a CD-Rom covering OSHA small business compliance assistance. At the conference OSHA gave a workshop/seminar discussing policies, procedures and cooperative programs of the agency.
- The Association of Small Business Development Centers, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) and OSHA entered a strategic partnership in December 2001 to expand information, assistance and training available for small business employers. The initial focus of the partnership was recordkeeping requirements. Eight seminars have been held across the country providing information and training on OSHA’s new recordkeeping standard.
- SBA’s Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Board Hearings – 23 of these meetings, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of National Ombudsman, will be held across the country this year. The Office of Small Business Assistance represents OSHA at these meetings and alerts Consultation Project Managers about meetings in their areas.
OSHA is working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the Business Compliance One-Stop project (BCOS). BCOS is one facet of the President’s Management Agenda, dealing with e-government strategy and efforts to make the U.S. government more citizen-centered and results-oriented.
OSHA, the Department of Labor and several federal and state agencies are jointly developing a web portal that will enable the small business owner to find, understand and comply with regulations. The final product will be an on-line gateway to enable businesses to: register or file with a government entity, obtain necessary permits or licenses, learn which laws and regulations are pertinent and how to obtain compliance guidance for those regulations.
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 and materials that they make available to small businesses
OSHA’s Training Institute (OTI) 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. In addition, the Training Centers have begun offering one-day or one-half-day seminars to increase opportunities for small business employers to attend safety/health training.
Susan Harwood Training Grants Program – Training and educational programs for small businesses is a priority for the grants program. The program has funded Small Business Development Centers.
Twenty-six states operate their own federally approved occupational safety and health programs. These entities enforce their own safety and health 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.
OSHA standards, interpretations, directives, interactive software, compliance assistance materials, e-Tools, and additional information are available or can be ordered online at http://www.osha.gov/.
OSHA’s computer-based training software provides assistance to small employers through its Expert Advisors and eTool software on topics such as hazard communication, asbestos, cadmium, confined spaces, fire safety, and lead in construction. eTools are “stand-alone,” interactive, Web-based training tools on occupational safety and health topics. They are highly illustrated and utilize graphical menus. Some also use expert system modules, which enable the user to answer questions, and receive reliable advice on how OSHA regulations apply to their work site.
OSHA has many published materials, including specific topics for small businesses, that are available or can be ordered online athttp://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/pubindex.list.
Of particular interest may be publications in OSHA’s Small Business and Health Management Series, which along with other materials, are available online. They include: OSHA’s Handbook for Small Businesses; Q&A’s for Small Business Employers; OSHA Help for New Businesses – Fact Sheet; Assessing the Need for Personal Protective Equipment: A Guide for Small Business Employers; Small Entity Compliance Guide for Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134; and Small Entity Compliance Guide for OSHA’s Abatement Verification Regulation 29 CFR 1903.19.