As a small business owner, providing a safe work environment is mandated by law. It’s important to create a safety program that’s suitable for your small business. One size doesn’t fit all. Your safety program needs to relate to your business and industry, be practical and easy to execute and then monitor.

Small businesses might be quick to brush off implementing a safety program, viewing it as an unnecessary expense (especially if there are only a handful of employees) but it’s the legal responsibility of business owners to keep employees safe at all times. Depending on which state you’re business operates in and the type of business you own, you’ll need to take certain measures to ensure a safe working environment, including providing proper equipment (PPE), training, and protocols for emergencies.

Here’s Why Safety Needs to Come First

1. Every business workplace has some element of risk

Even if your employees don’t work in traditionally hazardous conditions, like scaffolding, manufacturing or roofing, hazards are a part of every workplace. Handling even seemingly benign substances like cleaning products are considered hazardous by OSHA and require hazard communication and safe handling training every year. Risks exist even for people who work desk jobs or in their home office, in the form of electrical hazards, trips and falls from tangled cords, and even ergonomically unfit workstations, which can lead to back problems, carpel tunnel and other health issues.

2. Having a safety program makes financial sense

While it costs money to set up a safety program and conduct safety trainings for your employees, there’s a very good chance it may save you money in the long run. If your employees are injured on the job, they may file workers’ compensation claims, possibly hire an attorney and lawsuits. Workers’ Compensation claims can negatively affect the rates you pay for insurance as well as your access to the preferred insurance marketplace.  In addition, the loss of a worker can incur costs related to reduced productivity, paid time off, medical bills, and even reduced employee morale.  If an employee gets injured while on the job, it can lead to expensive workers’ compensation claims. A claims medical cost, lost wages, fines and legal costs can be enough to shut down a small business if they do not have Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage.

3. A safety program is required by law

OSHA requires all businesses in the United States to maintain a safe workplace for employees. This involves educating employees about hazards, creating safety and emergency procedures, and more. Safety regulations will differ by industry.

To avoid violating OSHA standards in your business, you should become more familiar with the violations cited most often in your industry. We’ve highlighted the most common OSHA infractions for 5 of the most popular industries:

Restaurant industry

  1. Hazard communication (standard 191.1200)
  2. Recording and reporting occupational injuries and illness (standard 1904.39)
  3. General electrical requirements (Standard 1910.303)
  4. Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use (Standard 1910.305)
  5.  Medical services and first aid (Standard 1910.151)


Construction industry

  1. Duty to have fall protection (Standard 1926.501)
  2. General scaffolding requirements (Standard 1926.451)
  3. Ladders (Standard 1926.1053)
  4. Fall protection training requirements (Standard 1926.503)
  5. Eye and face protection (Standard 1926.102)


Manufacturing industry

  1. The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tag out) (Standard 1910.147)
  2. Respiratory protection (Standard 1910.134)
  3. General requirements for all machines (Standard 1910.212)
  4. Hazard communication (Standard 1910.1200)
  5. Powered industrial trucks (Standard 1910.178)


Retail industry

  1. Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes (Standard 1910.37)
  2. Powered industrial trucks (Standard 1910.178)
  3. General electrical requirements (Standard 1910.303)
  4. Hazard Communication (Standard 1910.1200)
  5. Handling materials – general (Standard 1910.176)


Healthcare industry
The top 5 most common infractions in the healthcare industry are:

  1. Blood borne pathogens (Standard 1910.1030)
  2. Hazard Communication (Standard 1910.1200)
  3. General electrical requirements (Standard 1910.303)
  4. Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness (Standard 1904.39)
  5. Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use (Standard 1910.305)


By developing a strong and relatable safety plan and training program, you can help prevent accidents and avoid costly OSHA citations.  You can find sample OSHA safety and health programs that are intended to provide examples of written programs for various workplace and safety health topics, located here.