When most of us hear the word safety, we think of hard hats and caution signs. However, safety is crucial for any organization, from small retail businesses to global manufacturing operations. Safe workplaces are a right for every employee and should be provided by employers. Safe working environments keep their workers healthy, happy, and safe from the adverse impact of any hazards that exist in today's business environment.
What is OSHA?
In 1970, the United States government created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), an agency within the Department of Labor. OSHA's mission is to "ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."
OSHA conducts a variety of programs and assistance to ensure workplace health and safety which include:
- Encouraging employers to reduce workplace hazards and to implement new safety and health management systems
- Developing mandatory job safety and health standards
- Enforcing established standards through worksite inspections, and, sometimes, by imposing citations, penalties, or both
- Promoting safe and healthful work environments through cooperative programs, such as the Voluntary Protection Programs
- Establishing responsibilities and rights for employers to achieve better safety and health conditions
OSHA regulations apply to a large majority of businesses in the United States. Organizations which are exempt from OSHA regulations include churches, businesses with less than 10 employees, and businesses within low-hazard industries (e.g. retail, finance). These low-hazard industries can be exempt from recording workplace injuries. However, all companies are required to report workplace injuries which result in the death or hospitalization of three or more workers.
Top Risks of Ignoring OSHA Regulations
Increased risk of serious employee injuries
Employee injuries can occur within any industry at any time. Safe working practices help lower hazardous exposures which can lead to adverse events. OSHA safety standards help educate, train, and alter behaviors of employees. This leads to a better work environment where accidents are less likely, thus lowering overall risk to the organization. Through the introduction of OSHA safety standards, companies protect their employees from serious injuries, and in turn, protect their bottom line. Employee injuries increase expenses and erode profit margins. OSHA generously provides free educational resources and training to help any size business become a safer place to work, thus alleviating any budgetary concerns about allocating resources to safety initiatives.
Costly Penalties & Fines
As a federal agency, OSHA has the power to levy fines against companies which have unsafe practices and conditions for their employees and the external environment. These penalties can be severe in some cases, leading to increased expenses. Below is a list of violations and their fines, which were recently increased:
- Serious & Other-Than-Serious Posting Requirements - $13,494 per violation
- Failure to Abate - $13,494 per day beyond the abatement date
- Willful or Repeated - $134,937 per violation
These fines are 100% preventable. For businesses of any size these fines not only impact the bottom line, they are also public information. This means that anyone can see a business’s safety record and any fines levied against it. This can really impact the reputation of a business. The largest OSHA fine ever administered was against British Petroleum (BP Products North America) in the area of $87.4 million for safety violations related to the catastrophic explosion of the Texas City petroleum plant in 2005.
Competitive Advantage Loss
As noted above, OSHA fines are not only a pain to the balance sheet, they are also public knowledge. A quick search in the OSHA database will show the vast archive of fines made against companies, and the reasons behind them. This can be a nightmare for a company’s reputation if they have a poor safety record. Businesses may be less likely to partner with a company if it is considered unsafe in the eyes of the federal government. This results in a loss of competitive advantage for unsafe companies and provides a major incentive for them to ensure the safest possible work environments. Competitive advantage has a direct link to revenues, and unsafe working conditions is a foolish reason to lose out on present and future business.
OSHA has played a significant role in creating safer workplaces all over the country. Their standards help businesses keep employees and their communities safe. This leads to lower employee injury costs and increased safety reputations. Safety is key to keeping workplaces happy, healthy, and focused on achieving objectives. It should be everyone’s mission to keep it that way!
If your workplace needs assistance with creating an OSHA friendly work environment, please contact the experts at Work-Fit to see how our services can help your organization today!