No Harm Done?

A proposed OSHA rule could create business hazards in more ways than one.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 1999 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Start checking your Yellow Pages for "Consultants" or, dare we say, "Attorneys." If the proposed OSHA Safety and Health Program Rule is finalized, you'll probably need an outside expert to tell you how to do a workplace risk assessment and train your employees.

If the plan is approved, all companies (excluding construction and agricultural businesses) will have to assess workplace hazards, fix those that can be fixed, and train employees how to avoid those that can't be fixed. Companies with more than 10 employees will also have to develop a written safety and health program. "Safety and health programs are the critical difference between employers with high injury rates and those with low rates," says OSHA administrator Charles Jeffress.

Dave Schnare, senior advisor on economic impact and analysis at the SBA Office of Advocacy, says 5 million businesses, most of them small, will be affected by the new Safety and Health Program Rule. OSHA and the SBA Office of Advocacy differ strongly over how many businesses will need a consultant to help them comply with the rule and how much that will cost. Schnare believes companies of all sizes will have to hire either an industrial safety expert or an attorney (or maybe even both) to understand the OSHA requirements and come up with a plan to satisfy them. Consultant costs could easily top $20,000 per small business, Schnare says.

Bob Burt, a senior economist at OSHA, acknowledges that some very small companies "may find it convenient" to turn to consultants, especially for employee training. "However, we think it would [cost] more like $250 to $500," he says.

Schnare believes business owners who prepare written hazard plans may face hazards of a different sort down the road, as risk assessments listing things in need of repair could become fodder for liability claims made by disgruntled employees. "If a guy slips in the shower on a bar of soap and the employer had `shower soap dish' on the to-do list, that employee could take the business owner to court and argue the owner knowingly allowed an unsafe workplace," he says. "This is a very serious complaint about the proposed rule."

Business groups are likely to sue OSHA over the proposed rule, according to Schnare. A federal court will probably have the final say, however, on whether the costs and benefits on which OSHA based the rule are legitimate. But groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the fight against the rule, aren't waiting--they've already made their decision.


Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.

More from Entrepreneur

Learn to be a better leader and develop successful marketing and branding strategies with Dr. Patti Fletcher's help.
Book Your Session

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.