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OSHA Safety Manuals for Small Business

Small businesses update and amend construction safety guidelines regularly. Learn about the safety rules for small businesses and contractors under OSHA.

On January 23, 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated their penalties for safety violations.

OSHA Citations can now carry fines from $13,260 per violation to $132,598 per violation. (The higher number is for willful or repeated violations.)

Workplaces can be hazardous. Providing your employees with a safe working environment is your responsibility. This applies to businesses large and small.

Failing to do so could cost your employees harm and can also cost you thousands of dollars in penalties.

OSHA provides guidance as well as regulations. They offer many resources, including publications. This article reviews the OSHA Safety Manual for Small Businesses.

It also describes how you can use it to create a safe working environment for your employees. The manual also lists other OSHA resources that can help you build your safety plan

Small Businesses Need a Safety Plan Too

Every employer, large and small, must establish a safe and healthy work environment. Safety should be a priority for every small business.

In 2017, OSHA reports that 5,147 workers died on the job. Further, 20.7% of those fatalities were in construction. One in five of those deaths happened in construction accidents.

OSHA refers to the circumstances as the “Fatal Four.” The top two causes are falls and workers struck by objects. The next two are workers getting caught in or between object and electrocution.

Commitment to Health and Safety

OSHA's provides guidance and leadership to employers. One goal is to help employees and employers reduce illnesses, injuries, and fatalities. Another goal is increasing employers’ and personnel’s commitment to improving safety.

Small Business Resources

OSHA's small business help includes resources for small business employers like you. Those resources include help with compliance. It also contains individualized consultation, whether your concern is construction safety or other.

They also offer training and educational manuals that support proper safety measures. One of the leading publications is the Safety Manual for Small Businesses.

You should tailor your company’s health and safety program should to fit your company. Blend your safety program in to fit your business operations. Doing so helps you maintain a plan that addresses hazards on an ongoing basis.

Safety Equals Good Business

Investing in a safety and health program saves you money down the line. On average, small businesses recoup up to $6 for every dollar invested. In short, doing the right thing has financial benefits.

It will lower costs and increase morale and productivity.

Your responsibility as an employer is to protect your workers from harm. But that’s also good business sense. After all, accidents and injuries are expensive for employers.

OSHA Guidelines and Publications

OSHA publishes many materials to assist employers. Some are specific to small businesses. The Safety Manual for Small Businesses is available to small business owners. You can view and download a copy from OSHA’s website.

As a government agency, OSHA has a lot of power and sometimes their inspections can be unexpected. Being prepared and knowing what to expect and do during an inspection will help you and your business be organized in accordance with OSHA guidelines.

The OSHA manual helps you meet OSHA’s legal requirements and complete an OSHA inspection. The handbook doesn’t contain any added requirements.

It provides guidance on the OSHA requirements in effect at the time of its publication. Small business owners and managers can adapt the guidelines to their establishments.

OSHA Safety Manual for Small Businesses Overview

The Safety Manual contains five main sections. Each provides guidance for small businesses like yours. The sections are:

1. Introduction

2. A Four-Point Workplace Program: The Basis of a Plan

3. Starting A Safety and Health Management System: Creating A Plan

4. Self-Inspection

5. Help with Safety and Health for Small Businesses

Let's get into each one in detail.


The first main section is an introduction. It provides an overview of the four basic elements of an effective safety program. They are:

Management Commitment and Employee Involvement

Worksite Analysis

Hazard Prevention and Control

Training for Employees, Supervisors, and Managers

The Basis of a Plan

This section explains the four points in greater detail. The Four-Point Workplace Program comes OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines. OSHA developed those guidelines were in 1989.

1. Management Commitment and Employee Involvement. Management leads the way, sets policy and assigns responsibilities to key personnel. Most important, management sets a proper example. And, they involve employees in developing the plan.

2. Worksite Analysis. You need to analyze your workplace on an ongoing basis. The goal is to identify existing and possible hazards.

3. Hazard Prevention and Control. The next step involves implementing methods that prevent hazards.

4. Training for Employees, Supervisors, and Managers. In this step, you train management and employees to understand work hazards.

Once they understand, they can learn how to handle them.

Creating A Plan

This section contains an action plan for organizing the Four-Point Program. The topics covered include:

Designating responsibility

Asking for help

Organizing the workplace

Gathering facts about your situation

Establishing the Four-Point Program

Implementing your action plan


The best way to find hazards is to conduct health and safety inspections. That way you can observe the situation over time to be sure no new hazards come up.

This section of the manual provides guidance on conducting self-inspections of your workplace. Self-inspections are critical to finding, limiting, or eliminating hazards.

In this section, you will find useful checklists for fact-finding and self-inspections. Checklists help you discover where you need to take action to make your workplace safer.

Help in Safety and Health for Small Businesses

OSHA’s Office of Small Business Assistance helps you understand your safety responsibilities. They can assist you in accessing compliance information and provide guidance on regulations.

Finally, OSHA can educate you on how to ensure the health and safety of your workers.

This section also discusses other resources like on-site consultation. It also details other cooperative programs and voluntary protection programs. You can learn more about two other programs.

One is the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP). The other is the OSHA Alliance Program.

Tailoring Your Safety Plan to Your Business

OSHA’s guidelines allow for customization across industries. You can further customize them to your business, based on your analysis.

Safety Manual Template Packages

Many times, companies outsource the development of their safety plan and documentation. Or, you can but a template package already specific to your industry.

Using these packages assists you in learning safety basics related to your trade. You can choose a safety manual only or go with a bundle that includes OSHA and other required forms as well.

Some providers offer entire safety systems that you can buy and tailor to fit your needs. Such providers have existing templates for your trade. They cover everything from medicine, construction, retail, welding, etc.

They will work with you to tailor it to your trade and ensure that everything is OSHA-compliant.

Safety Meeting Topics and Checklists

A large part of developing your company’s safety plan is conducting meetings with your team. Some meetings will have to do with developing the plan. Others are the regular safety meetings held as part of the plan.

Again, OSHA provides guidelines for this in their manuals and various resources. Also, the same safety system providers have ready-made templates for meeting topics.

Often, these documents convert the OSHA-compliance regulations into easy-to-understand language for your employees. Your front-line folks don’t have to translate legalese.

Instead, they can address current safety topics and discuss action items.

Employers and Employees Working Together

The OSHA Safety Manual for Small Businesses is a primary source for understanding your role in ensuring safety. The OSHA manual provides guidance for implementing a safety plan for your company.

Including Employees

You will work with your employees to keep health and safety a priority in the work environment. Communication is the key to maintaining a safe environment.

Involving your people ensures an accurate safety plan. It also raises morale and ensures compliance.

Show Your Commitment

By taking an active role in safety, your employees will strengthen your company. And in ways beyond OSHA compliance.

As the employer, it’s essential that you show your commitment to your employees’ safety. Invest proper time and money into developing your safety program.

Keeping Safety on the Forefront

This article presented a brief overview of the OSHA Safety Manual for Small Businesses. It shows you how it pertains to your small business, regardless of your industry or trade.

Safety is paramount in any business. And OSHA knows that owners of smaller companies have specific needs and concerns.

The OSHA manual addresses that and directs business owners to extra resources. Finally, OSHIFY customizable templates for your safety documentation.


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