You may think workplace safety policies only apply to “dangerous” environments like factories, construction, or even health care. But a variety of federal and state laws require nearly all employers to provide a safe workplace. And employer’s legal obligations have become increasingly complex in light of the ongoing pandemic. Small businesses and nonprofits in all sectors need to recognize the importance of addressing safety concerns in the workplace. In this installment of our Essential HR Policies series, we take a look at what you should consider when drafting or updating your workplace safety policies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) require nearly all employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees regardless of the size of the business. Among other things, OSHA generally requires employers to:
What should you consider when drafting or updating workplace safety policies?
Complying with your responsibilities as an employer under OSHA will vary from one employer to another. As you consider drafting or updating your workplace safety policies, you should address the common safety issues that can occur in any workplace: fire, weather emergencies, medical emergencies, violence in the workplace, the spread of COVID-19, etc. But also consider your particular industry and its unique workplace hazards, as well as your organization’s operating procedures and workplace culture.
Workplace safety policies should also address when and how to report accidents and illnesses and the potential consequences for failing to do so. Your policies may also address whether drug testing will be required after accidents and the consequences for failing to cooperate in mandatory drug testing.
Special Rules for Employing Minors
If your small business or nonprofit employ minors, then you should also be aware of additional obligations the law imposes to protect minors from unsafe working conditions. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally prohibits employers from hiring minors before they reach age 14 or from hiring minors to work in certain hazardous jobs.
Ohio also has specific requirements that can be found in Chapter 4109 of the Ohio Revised Code:
Workplace safety is a very broad topic that every employer needs to consider from multiple angles. If you need assistance drafting or updating your HR policies: