As a small business owner, providing a safe work environment isn’t just smart—it’s required. To provide such an environment, it’s important to create an appropriate safety program for your business.
Why do I need a safety program?
Three U.S. Department of Labor agencies are responsible for protecting the safety and health of American workers.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Health and safety conditions in most private industries are regulated by OSHA or OSHA-approved state plans. This means nearly every employee in the nation comes under OSHA’s jurisdiction with a few exceptions (miners, some transportation workers, many public employees, and those who are self-employed). If your business falls under OSHA’s reach, you have a duty to provide a workplace that’s free from recognized serious hazards.
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
MSHA is responsible for enforcing the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. This act protects the health and safety of mineworkers. It applies to all mining and mineral-processing operations in the country, regardless of size or method of extraction.
Wage and Hour Division
The Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which provides regulations regarding the employment of workers under the age of 18. The act includes minimum age restrictions for employment, as well as restrictions on the jobs young workers can perform and the time of day they may work.
What should my safety program include?
Your company’s overall occupational health and safety program will include a variety of modules that address specific hazards, as required by OSHA. In addition to an accident prevention program, other safety and health programs may be required, depending on the hazards in your particular workplace. Once you identify those specific hazards and the appropriate OSHA regulations that apply, you can begin building out your safety program.
Where can I find a sample safety program?
In addition to the sample safety programs provided by OSHA, your state’s Department of Labor may have a sample program that you can download and adapt for your own use. For example, California’s Department of Industrial Relations provides a sample injury and illness prevention program for non-high hazard employers that small business owners can use as a model for their own programs. Maine’s Department of Labor provides a variety of sample safety programs tailored to specific job titles.
Another option is to work with your insurer or a risk management consultant to outsource the development of your safety program.
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