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Is Your Small Business Exempt from OSHA?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

The Occupational Safety and Health Act covers most businesses that have employees. It has specific rules and regulations but it also specifies a number of industries that are exempt from the OSH Act.

Not everyone has to follow OSH Act regulations and many small businesses are exempt from the requirements.

Most OSH Act requirements are designed to keep employees safe and it's a not a bad idea to consider if they can help you, both for your employee's sake and yours. Keeping employees safe keeps down costs by preventing injuries but not all the OSH Act rules are helpful to small businesses.

So if you're a small business, how do you know if you're exempt from OSHA?

First things first, if you're unsure about your status under the OSH Act, it's a good idea to talk it over with an attorney. That way you won't be surprised down the road about what rules apply to you.

Businesses with 10 employees or fewer are exempt from OSH Act's injury and incident reporting as well as programmed inspections by Occupational Safety and Health Administration employees.

Other small businesses with more than 10 employees may also be exempt from the programmed inspections. This applies to certain "low-hazard industries" identified by OSHA.

Certain employers are expressly not covered by the OSH Act meaning none of the rules apply to these businesses. That includes self-employed people, farms that employ only immediate family members, and people who employ others for domestic services such as cleaning and child care.

Churches and religious church activities, states, and businesses that are governed by federal agencies are also not bound by OSH Act regulations.

The categories look neat when stated by the government, but in reality it can be difficult to figure out where a complex and evolving business falls under OSH Act regulations. If you are still unsure about whether your business falls within an exempt category, ask a legal expert.

Being exempt from the OSH Act can mean greater flexibility for a small business with few employers. Knowing your status can help you avoid penalties while taking advantage of the benefits of being a small business owner.

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