Your 2021 Guide to OSHA Compliance

Written By YellowBird
August 24, 2021

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The standards and regulations that govern workplace safety are constantly changing. OSHA updates its literature every month to remain current with the many risks associated with industrial equipment, chemicals, machinery, and potentially hazardous energy. Every month, OSHA publishes amendments to existing safety measures or introduces rule changes that constantly modify their compliance standards.

There is an exhaustive list of standards that must be met for your company to be OSHA compliant. Some states like California have their own workplace safety laws, as well. It is up to the employer to cultivate a safe workplace that adheres to these safety standards. Some primary employer responsibilities include:

  • Facilitate a safe work environment that adheres to the safety standards and regulations developed by OSHA.

  • Identify and mark all recognized hazards with the appropriate signage and labels throughout the workplace.

  • Provide the necessary training to employees for them to remain fully informed on all workplace safety standards.

  • Modify existing health and safety literature to reflect any updates to workplace regulations.

  • Create a program that educates employees about hazardous chemicals, and ensure employees have easy access to safety data sheets for reference.

  • Display an OSHA poster in a high-traffic area that clearly outlines the rights of employees and their responsibilities.

  • Notify OSHA in the event of an employee hospitalization, amputation, or the loss of an eye within 24 hours of the incident. Employers must report any fatalities in the workplace within 8 hours.

  • Maintain accurate records of all workplace injuries, and provide transparent access to this information.

  • Designate workplace personnel who will escort OSHA compliance officers during an inspection, and provide OSHA with their names.

  • Prevent discrimination against employees based on age, sex, gender, or religion.

  • Display any OSHA violations in the area where the incident occurred for up to 3 days after, or until the issue is resolved.

  • While not mandatory in all states, OSHA advises employers to establish a comprehensive health and safety program to help mitigate accidents or injuries in the workplace.

Failing to meet the compliance standards put forward by OSHA can result in a range of consequences. Employers who commit serious violations or fail to post the information required by OSHA may be subject to a fine of up to $13,653. When cited issues remain uncorrected after a predetermined time frame, OSHA may apply a “failure to abate” violation to the employer, resulting in a maximum fine of up to $13,653 each day the cited violation remains unresolved after the abatement date.

Willful or repeated compliance violations come with the most significant penalties, including monetary fines that can exceed $136,000 per violation. Your company can avoid breaking OSHA compliance by staying informed of any updates to regulatory guidance. In addition, it's essential to ensure workers receive proper training in all aspects of workplace safety by providing annual training courses on the latest OSHA safety standards available.

The Complexity of OSHA Compliance

Employers are responsible for carefully reviewing all potential hazards relevant to their industry and must establish OSHA-compliant safety standards to address those hazards. OSHA's exhaustive list of safety standards spans across a range of industries and addresses the specific safety concerns associated with each. Some of the main industries include:

  • Construction

  • Healthcare

  • Maritime industry

  • Agriculture

  • Manufacturing

  • Semiconductor production

  • Textiles

  • Electrical contracting

  • Logging

Although successfully navigating the complexities of OSHA regulations can seem challenging, it's incumbent upon employers to ensure they fully understand their responsibilities. You need to be aware of the mandatory safety standards of your industry and work to implement the appropriate measures to ensure compliance. As OSHA updates its compliance criteria, you are responsible for staying up-to-date with any changes and relay any new information to workers.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, OSHA compliance standards have changed as efforts continue to prevent the virus from spreading. These updated compliance standards continue to present unique challenges to businesses across the country. By adhering to OSHA regulations, your company can minimize many potential health hazards — including COVID-19 — that your workers face.

OSHA's protective guidelines regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus outlines how employers should educate workers on respiratory diseases and how employees can protect themselves from exposure. Here is a basic summary of the compliance standards OSHA has established regarding COVID-19:

1. Provide employees with personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) can help to limit the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19. OSHA requires general industry employers to use PPE such as safety glasses, gloves, or respirators/masks when appropriate. Performing a PPE hazard assessment is the best way to determine what types of personal protective equipment your company needs to provide to workers.

2. Develop an Exposure Control Plan related to bloodborne pathogens

General industry employers must develop an Exposure Control Plan that gives workers concise guidance for limiting exposure to potentially contaminated bodily fluids, like blood. Although the COVID virus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets, the bloodborne pathogen standards issued by OSHA can help employers improve their approach to dealing with exposure in the workplace. For more guidance on limiting the spread of the virus, employers are encouraged to review the state safety standards regarding Aerosol Transmitted Diseases currently observed in California.

3. Provide appropriate sanitation services to reduce the spread of the virus

To comply with OSHA's General Duty Clause, employers must provide an environment for workers that contains no recognized hazards, including avoidable exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If you are in the construction or general industry sector, this involves ensuring that your company complies with OSHA sanitation standards.

You must take measures to protect workers from potentially hazardous chemicals used in workplace sanitation. Whenever workers use potentially harmful chemicals in cleaning, employers must communicate the hazards to sanitation workers and verify they follow all PPE safety regulations.

To remain in compliance with OSHA standards, employers must educate themselves on their responsibilities to workers and what legal procedures are related to their specific industry. To make this task easier, OSHA connects employers with Assistance Specialists who work closely with you to determine what regulations apply to you and how you can fulfill those obligations. These Assistance Specialists can perform assessments on-site, explaining all relevant OSHA regulations in detail. In addition, OSHA offers Outreach Training Programs and operates various Training Centers across the country.

At Yellowbird, we can set you up with a trained professional or expert team of specialists who understand all aspects of OSHA workplace safety. With their help, you'll have a deeper understanding of OSHA regulations as they apply to your business and what is needed to ensure your workplace remains compliant with all safety standards. We'll help you establish OSHA compliance training courses for your employees so that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Setting Yourself Up for OSHA Compliance Success in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic presents many unique obstacles to businesses across virtually all industries. OSHA continues to carefully evaluate any developments with the virus, modifying compliance regulations as needed to keep workers safe. The regulations issued by OSHA regarding COVID-19 are meant to minimize the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus along with any other possible pathogens.

For businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a primary concern as employers across the country work in tandem to limit the spread. Companies should remain committed to following all OSHA safety procedures, especially considering the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. When breaches in workplace safety protocols occur, companies can face lawsuits, penalties, or steep fines.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in July 2021 that alleges a North Texas dental practice unfairly terminated an employee for raising concerns regarding COVID safety in the workplace. This unlawful termination violates section 11(c) of the OSH Act, which states that an employer cannot discharge an employee based on discriminatory or retaliatory factors. This includes terminating employees who exercise their right to work in a safe workplace free of environmental hazards. Unfortunately, several businesses are currently facing lawsuits for violating this specific compliance standard.

The single most effective way to maintain compliance with OSHA regarding hazards like COVID-19 is to enlist the help of an OSHA compliance specialist. They will help you successfully navigate safety concerns like COVID-19, fall hazards, severe weather events, roadway safety, chemical exposure, and more. With the help of an OSHA professional, you'll drastically reduce your margin for error and take any guesswork out of your company's compliance with current regulations. Following the guidance of compliance specialists will ensure your business avoids lawsuits or costly fines associated with workplace safety violations.

Because OSHA's workplace safety standards are constantly changing, keeping up with all the regulations can seem daunting at first. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you ensure OSHA compliance at your business. If you need additional support, Yellowbird will connect you with qualified professionals who understand the OSHA regulations relevant to your specific industry. Our team will find the experts to support all your OSHA safety training needs. Reach out to our team today and find out how Yellowbird can help your business remain OSHA compliant in 2021.

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