Small Business Brief

Safety & Loss Prevention

A Business Owner’s Guide to Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

Even small businesses need to comply with OSHA regulations if they have one or more employees. OSHA — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — falls under the United States Department of Labour and is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It focuses on workplace safety, and there are a few OSHA regulations you need to know about.

Read on for our whistle-stop tour of OSHA regulations.

OSHA Federal and State Laws

Although OSHA is a federal law, some states have OSHA laws of their own which take precedence over the federal ones. Check out the state plans here. If your state is not covered on this page, then your business is subject to the federal OSHA rules.

Occupational Safety and Health Act Basics 

There are a few basics that you should always have covered, no matter what your actual business. We have listed them below.

Poster Display

You need to display an OSHA-compliant poster in a prominent place. This serves to inform your workers of their rights under OSHA. 

Hazardous Substances

You need to give employees information on how to identify hazardous substances in the workplace. You also need to give them training on how to treat injuries from hazardous substances. There are a few surprises on the hazardous substance list, such as bleach, meaning that your cleaning supplies might contain several such substances.

First Aid/Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA standards for bloodborne pathogens mean that you have to provide PPE (personal protective equipment) to workers. Included in PPE in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic would be masks to protect employees from occupational exposure to this virus and other infectious agents. Training on this is also required.

Certain hygiene standards, such as the washing of hands, and cleaning all surfaces need to be followed too. Standard First Aid training covers how to deal with injuries that involve bleeding.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE also includes protective clothing, and this is largely dependent on the type of work your employees do and the industry that you’re a part of. Workers should receive training on what PPE they need to use, how to use it and maintain it.

It is worth keeping up to date on the range of PPE available. For instance, did you know that there is a new safety throw blanket available? This 2 feet by 4 feet throw blanket is portable and can be used to protect workers from hot, dirty, wet, or dangerous environments.

Its essential feature is to prevent burns to workers’ arms, legs, or bodies.

Fire and Emergency Exits Routes 

Workers need to know how to deal with fires and other emergencies and should receive the appropriate training. Exit route signage is necessary and fire safety procedures need to be affixed to the wall where they are easily visible.

Reporting Requirements and Inspections

As an employer, you need to report incidents, including fatalities, to the nearest OSHA office. Make sure that your reporting records are in order since these will be examined when scheduled or unannounced OSHA inspections are carried out. 

You will also have to show them to OSHA investigators if an employee files a complaint against your company.


The Occupational Safety and Health Act is comprehensive and covers all aspects of health and safety requirements in the workplace. If you feel that wading through the actual legislation is too onerous, help is at hand. The Department of Labor website has a downloadable booklet titled “All About OSHA” that gives a great general overview of OSHA. 

Once you’re better acquainted with OSHA, be sure to read our other articles here that focus on the many facets of running a small business.