Podcast: OSHA and Workplace Safety

The SCORE Small Business Success Podcast features interviews with the best and brightest in the world of small business, covering topics such as business plans, financing, marketing, human resources, SEO, social media and more. In this podcast, SCORE mentors chat with Laurel Ferguson.​

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Dennis Zink:     Laurel let's start with just talking about what OSHA is and if you could tell me about OSHA and safety and what OSHA is all about.

Laurel Ferguson:            OSHA is a government agency that oversees the safety and health requirements that companies have to meet in order to comply with regulations just like you have taxes, just like you have environmental and disposal regulations. There are very specific safety regulations that OSHA enforces. They have different divisions. They have an outreach division which goes out into small businesses and advises them on the regulations that those specific businesses have to meet, very similar to an OSHA or a safety consultant would do if you wanted to pay them instead of OSHA.

They also have an enforcement division where if something goes wrong, they're going to come in and they're going to do an inspection. If they drive by and they see you doing something wrong, they're going to stop and they're going to do an inspection. Just like a police officer that sees a crime in progress where you can get arrested or you can get cited or fined for your activities so can OSHA fine your company for a violation of the regulations.

Dennis Zink:     What does an employer need to know about OSHA?

Laurel Ferguson:            Primarily that OSHA applies to every company that's out there. There really isn't a company that is in business that doesn't have at least one OSHA regulation that applies to them. Emergency action for example, everyone has to know how to get out of the building in an emergency and where they're supposed to go once they're out of the building so that we can make sure that everyone is out safely and that way we don't have to send the fire department into the burning building to look for someone. That is one of the primarily regulations that applies to everyone.

There are many other regulations that apply unilaterally across the board.

Dennis Zink:     What would an employee need to know about OSHA?

Laurel Ferguson:            OSHA is out there primarily to protect their health and safety and make sure that the company that they work for is doing things properly. If you work on a piece of equipment or machinery it has to have very specific guards to protect you from getting your fingers cut off for example. If you work with chemicals, there has to be specific information available to you on what the hazards of those chemicals are and how to obtain that information at a company level.

There's many things that OSHA does to protect the employees and that's their primary goal to make sure that everyone goes home at the end of the work day in as good or better condition than they came to work that morning.

Dennis Zink:     How does Paychex primarily known as a payroll company fit in with OSHA compliance?

Laurel Ferguson:            Well there are many just like with OSHA and other governmental agencies there are many divisions within OSHA. You can subscribe to our payroll division. You can subscribe to our handbooks division where we will give you an HR related handbook for your company. You can subscribe to an entire HR services package and as part of that HR services package that goes through Cobra and SUI and 401K and hiring and firing and all of those health and benefits and all of those other HR services that companies have to deal with, with that package comes a safety service which means you would get me or one of my colleagues as your safety consultant so that we can assist you in compliance with the regulations that apply to your business.

Dennis Zink:     What do you see as some of the biggest examples of a problem that a company may face as it relates to OSHA? Is there a certain behavior that tends to show up more often than other behaviors?

Laurel Ferguson:            There are several regulations again that apply to most companies across the board. For example if you have an injury to one of your employees, there's a specific process that OSHA makes you go through to document the circumstances of that injury or that incident. Then depending on how many employees you have under your company would depend on other regulations that apply.

Again emergency action applies to everyone. Hazard communications if you have chemicals applies to everyone. If you don't have chemicals, then obviously it doesn't apply to you. Electrical safety if you have a building that you work in and the electrical service panel box is in your section of the building then that service panel box has to have a cover, the cover has to stay closed. You can't store stuff in front of the panel box. Things like that that OSHA looks for when they walk through or do an inspection of your facility. Those are the things that if they’re wrong they're going to cite you for.

About the Author

About the Podcast Guest: Laurel Ferguson   


Laurel Ferguson graduated Rochester Institute of Technology with a BS in Occupational Safety, an MS in Environmental Health and Safety and a degree certificate in Crisis and Disaster Planning. Laurel has obtained certifications of CSP, Certified Safety Professional and CHMM, Certified Hazard Materials Manager. She has over thirty-five years of experience working with Eastman Kodak Company in the health safety environmental division. She works for Paychex in safety and loss control.