OSHA Compliance

Given all that we know now about the consequences of mishandling hazardous chemicals, heavy machinery, and other dangerous elements of any workplace, we cannot ignore the need for OSHA compliance. OSHA compliance requires an employer to provide a safe worksite for its employees. It also requires employers to maintain injury and illness records according to the standards and rules set by OSHA under the OSH Act. Furthermore, OSHA compliance is mandatory for all employers operating within the jurisdiction of the US government (both federal and local). In the following article, you will find out more about OSHA, how to become compliant and the various standards set forth by OSHA.

What is OSHA?

Well-being and safety in the workplace may seem like common sense, but more often than not, employers either have no idea that they are putting their employees at risk. Therefore, in 1970, the American congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act and with it founded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the sole purpose of ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for people working within the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Labour. OSHA seeks to achieve this by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance to both employees and employers.

OSHA Coverage

For the private sector, OSHA covers employers and their workers operating within all 50 states of the USA and certain territories and jurisdictions either directly under Federal OSHA or an approved State Plan (run by the local government).

On the other hand, for the public sector, Federal OSHA does cover Federal Government workers but not those working in state and local government institutions. However, the OSHA Act includes such workers if they happen to work in a state or jurisdiction running an OSHA approved State Plan.

What are the OSHA standards?

OSHA’s goal is to provide a safe and healthy environment for workers and protect them from exploitation. To achieve this goal, OSHA requires all employers that fall under its jurisdiction to adhere to ALL applicable OSHA standards. Each standard is a regulatory requirement created by OSHA to measure an employer’s performance in compliance with OSH Act laws. OSHA broadly groups these standards as follows:

General Industry – Part 1910

These standards apply to all workers employed in any sector or industry. These General Industry standards include categories such as compressed gas/air equipment, electrical work, exit routes, and emergency planning, fire protection, general environment controls, handheld equipment and portable power tools, hazardous materials and substances, machinery and machine guarding, materials handling and storage, medical and first aid, personal protective equipment, powered platforms, man lifts, and vehicle-mounted platforms, walking-working surfaces and welding, cutting and brazing.

Construction – Part 1926

These standards apply to employers and workers that engage in any kind of construction, alteration, and repair work. Construction workers are in danger of a wide range of injuries in the process of demolition, handling and moving materials, and high-intensity labor. Construction-related regulations cover areas such as and general safety and health provisions, working underground, excavations, blasting, demolition, electric power transmission and distribution, fall protection, fire prevention, materials handling (storage, use, and disposal). These standards also include the use of helicopters, hoists, elevators, conveyors, motor vehicles, mechanized equipment, personal protective and life-saving equipment, rollover protective structures (overhead protection), scaffolds, signs, signals, barricades, stairways, ladders, steel erections, hand, and powered tools.

Maritime – Part 1915, 1917, 1918

The maritime industry includes the construction, repair, and scrapping of vessels, as well as the movement of cargo and other materials. In this case, OSHA Maritime standards include categories such as general working conditions in maritime environments, cargo handling, and the appropriate gear and equipment, working ins confined/enclosed spaces, electrical machinery, fire protection in shipyard equipment, gangways and other means of access; gear and equipment for rigging and materials handling, marine terminal operations, opening, and closing hatches, personal protection and the proper equipment, portable, unified pressure vessels, drums and containers, scaffolds, ladders, and other working surfaces, surface preparation and preservation, terminal operations and equipment and more.

Agriculture – Part 1910 (partially) and Part 1928

The Agricultural standards pertain to the agricultural practices involved in growing and harvesting of crops and raising livestock to provide raw materials. Agricultural workers are at high risk for work-related injuries due to the presence of heavy machinery and often hazardous chemicals in everyday work. OSHA agriculture standards cover areas such as general environmental controls, hazardous material, logging operations, toxic and dangerous materials, rollover protective structures, and safety for agricultural equipment.

Record keeping – Part 1904

OSHA’s recordkeeping regulations require specific employer’s with more than ten employees to keep records of serious work-related injuries and illnesses that cause:

  • A fatality;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Absence from work;
  • Job transfers;
  • Medical attention beyond first aid;
  • Chronic irreversible diseases.

These requirements help OSHA, employers, and workers evaluate the safety of a workplace and understand the hazards specific to an industry. Each year between February and April, employers must submit a summary of any injuries and illnesses recorded during the previous year. However, employers with less than ten employees in the last year or operating within industries categorized as “low-hazard” do not need.

What does OSHA compliance mean?

Compliance with OSHA standards means more than common-sense safety measures. It is a multi-faceted, committed approach to providing a safe and productive environment for your employees. Most people think that providing the correct equipment and gear is more than enough to protect workers. However, that is far from the truth. Achieving OSHA compliance means providing the necessary equipment along with training and guidelines for correct use, proper maintenance, and emergency instructions. In some cases, OSHA requires employers to maintain records of all training conducted and submit evidence to the Administration for review.

Furthermore, regardless of the industry and nature of businesses, the OSHA General Duty Clause applies to all employers. This clause states that employers are duty-bound to provide a safe workplace for their employees. They must also offer adequate protection from severe, recognized hazardous even if OSHA does not have a relevant standard for it.

Who needs to become OSHA compliant?

As of June 2020, no industry is exempt from OSHA compliance. As long as your company operates within the jurisdiction of the USA federal government or a State Plan under a local government, you must adhere to the relevant OSHA standards. However, as mentioned earlier, small companies and “low-risk” businesses are partially exempt from maintaining injury and illness records. These businesses include anything from shoe stores to gasoline stores.

Furthermore, failing to become compliant with OSHA standards means your employees, their designated representatives, and OSHA can take legal action against you. It is in every employer’s best interests to comply with OSHA and avoid the needless loss of human life and unnecessary lawsuits.

How to become OSHA compliant?

Achieving OSHA compliance means that all health and safety practices and policies in an organization meet the standards set by OSHA. According to OSHA’s official compliance assistance quick start guide, you can follow the steps below to ensure your workplace reaches OSHA compliance:

  1. First, understand OSHA requirements that apply to most general employers;
    • Employers must prepare and implement a Hazard Communication Program which complies with OSHA standards. The program should inform all relevant personal about possible exposure to dangerous chemicals;
    • Employers should develop an Emergency Action Plan as per OSHA regulations. This plan should describe what employees must do to ensure their safety during an emergency such as a fire or natural disaster;
    • Employers should maintain an OSHA compliant Fire Safety Plan;
    • An employer must provide OSHA compliant Exit Routes;
    • All walking surfaces and working surfaces should comply with OSHA standards;
    • The quality of the Medical and First Aid personnel and supplies available should reflect the hazards of the workplace;
  2. Then identify and understand other, more specific OSHA requirements that may apply to your workplace depending on the industry and nature of work conducted at your workplace. For example, will your employees come into contact with heavy machinery or electrical distribution channels?
  3. Then conduct a survey of the workplace for any additional hazards;
    • You can use the self-inspection checklist in OSHA’s Small Business Handbook, the online tool, or the Hazard identification Training Tool to determine which OSHA standards apply to your workplace.
  4. Develop a comprehensive job site safety and health program;
    • Although this is not a requirement, development and implementation of such a program is an excellent way to comply with OSHA standards and prevent workplace injuries;
  5. Provide training to your employees;
    • OSHA offers many training resources, guidelines, and official training programs for employees looking to become OSHA compliant. You can get additional information about all of them from the official website;
  6. Manage and maintain records, reporting systems and posting plans;
    • Determine whether your workplace is exempt from the recordkeeping regulations (see relevant standard in the previous section);
    • However, regardless of exemptions, all employers must report fatalities within eight hours and all work-related hospitalizations, amputations, and loss of eyesight within 24 hours;
    • Understand how to submit injury and illness data electronically through OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA);
    • Ensure the OSHA poster or the state plan equivalent is in a prominent location within the workplace.
    • Make sure that employees, their designated representatives, and OSHA have access to employee medical records for the duration of the employee’s employment. However, injury and illness records must go back thirty years at least;
  7. Find and apply for other compliance assistance information;
    • You can go through the official website and read through FAQs;
    • Get in touch with OSHA or a competent OSHA compliance consultant;
    • You also have the option of demanding a free, on-site consultation.

OSHA compliance guidelines

OSHA small entity compliance guide

OSHA sometimes publishes specialized guides for “small entities” that help scale down OSHA standards for small, independently run businesses that are not dominant in the industry but still come into contact with industry-specific hazards. These guides include small entity compliance guides for:

  • The handling of Methylene Chloride;
  • OSHA’s Abatement Verification Regulation;
  • OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard.

OSHA compliance for dental offices

Currently, there is no OSHA standard aimed directly at dentistry. However, as with all medical fields, there exists an inherent risk of exposure to chemicals, bodily fluids, sharp tools, both handheld and powered, and more. Therefore, employers in dental professions should refer to OSHA General Industry standards such as, but not limited to, bloodborne pathogens, hazard communication, eye and face protection, and sanitation.

OSHA compliance for a virtual workplace

For a virtual workplace, OSHA provides guidelines for “home-based” offices or work sites. In this case, employers are not responsible for working conditions at an employee’s home space. Even if OSHA receives an official complaint, they will inform the employer, but there will be no followup. However, the employer is still duty-bound to keep a record of any work-related injuries or illnesses that arise while the employee is on the job.

OSHA compliance for warehouses

In the case of warehouses, the working environment exposes employees to a wide range of hazards when handling cargo, moving within the warehouse, and operating heavy equipment. Besides the always applicable General Industry standards, the most commonly cited OSHA standards in the case of warehouses include:

  • Electrical wiring;
  • Design of electrical systems;
  • Guarding floor and wall opening and holes;
  • Exits;
  • Mechanical power transmission;
  • Forklifts;
  • Lockout/Tagout;
  • Hazard communication;
  • Respiratory protection;
  • Portable fire extinguishers.

OSHA manufacturing regulations

OSHA recognizes manufacturing establishments such as factories, plants or mills that mechanically or chemically transform materials or substances into new products. In this case, the most commonly cited OSHA standards include, but are not limited to:

  • Occupational noise exposure;
  • Airborne contaminants;
  • Ventilation;
  • Confined spaces.

OSHA compliance software

In terms of software, OSHA does not offer any official applications or devices to help with OSHA compliance. However, the official OSHA website does provide a wide range of eTools, eMatrix, Expert Advisors, and v-Tools (video-based instruments). Each tool offers illustrated, sometimes interactive guidelines about whether an OSHA standard applies or not, how to implement them, and more.

On the other hand, many third party companies offer software and apps that help companies achieve OSHA compliance by simplifying the implementation process, creating visibility, and more central control mechanisms.


By now, you should have an appreciation for OSHA, the relevant standards, and the importance of achieving OSHA compliance. Successful implementation depends on correctly identifying which regulations apply, how to meet them, and how to maintain them. Remember, when it comes to bringing change, thorough knowledge building is critical, which is why OSHA focuses so much on training regularly.

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