Getting Started with Compliance and SafetyTomChilders
As a small business, these are areas you think about from time to time but might not have done a lot to mitigate. While that seems like life as small business, it is important to understand there are risks not to be taken lightly. There are some resources and avenues to explore if you are unsure, have questions, or just want to learn more.
Let’s start with compliance. Compliance is a large and complicated topic and by now, you have probably noticed that for large and complicated topics, the SBA is a good free starting point. Compliance is no exception. Its Federal Compliance Contacts and Resources under Department of Labor list resources and contacts to help you comply with labor and employment laws. This section is extremely robust and breaks out the individual administrations and areas.
From a more practical perspective, let’s discuss some of the common compliance problem areas for small business and green industry contractors. One area is purely a result of not staying informed of employment related laws and regulations. Most of the federal and state websites can assist here, as well as an HR lawyer, consultant or an HR Company. If you are not sure of something, seek and ask for help. Turn to the SBA, DOL, an HR Attorney or Consultant, but don’t wing it.
If you are at a size where it is really a challenge, evaluate outsourcing HR or bringing in an experienced manager. More and more small businesses today are looking at outsourcing. Also, keep track of, and automate if possible, all paperwork related to an employee. This includes hiring documents, i.e. I9, W4, application, etc., all time and pay period records, and any termination and/or exit documents. You never know when these might be needed. If you want to learn more on this topic, you can start at the link above but if you situation is serious, you may want to start with an attorney or other expert.
Worker safety and health is one of those areas that we are reminded of daily just from the business we are in. For the most part, we are working outside in the elements surrounded by heavy equipment, utility lines, construction sites, and tools to just name a few. When you combine that with the fact we are required to maintain a safe and healthful environment free of injury and illness, you see how important this issue truly is. At the same time, the issue is so big that in 1996 Congress passed the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, or SBREFA, to help small businesses.
Under SBREFA, OSHA must:
- Produce Small Entity Compliance Guides for OSHA rules with a significant impact on a substantial number of small businesses
- Be responsive to small business inquiries about compliance with regulations
- Submit final rules to the Congress for review
- Have a penalty reduction policy for small businesses
- Involve small businesses in the development of some proposed rules through Small Business Advocacy Review Panels.
In addition, SBREFA also gives small businesses expanded authority to recover attorneys’ fees and costs when a federal agency has been found to be excessive in enforcing federal regulations. The legislation also establishes 10 Small Business Regulatory Fairness Boards to receive comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities and report these findings annually to the Congress.
Note: If you are a small business, you may participate in the regulatory process and comment on OSHA enforcement actions by calling the Small Business Ombudsman at 1-888-REG-FAIR.” (taken from DOL OSHA – a great resource for more information on how OSHA can help).
Below is some additional assistance the SBA offers taken from its workplace safety and health section with additional links embedded.
Find the Workplace Health and Safety Requirements that Apply to You – Follow this step-by-step guide to pinpoint which OSHA requirements apply to your workplace and how you can comply.
- Request an On-Site Consultation Service – Get free advice from trained state government staff at your place of work.
- State-Specific Requirements – Some states do operate their own job safety and health programs. Check here to see which states have OSHA-approved plans and the standards they mandate.
- Training and Educational Programs – Take advantage of a wide selection of training courses and educational programs offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for employers.
While compliance and safety can seem overwhelming, given the proper priority and time today’s green industry contractor can navigate through it and manage it. It just needs some time and resources. See our resources for more information or consult an attorney or experienced professional.