It goes without saying that safety is important. But I’ll go ahead and say it: “Safety is critical to your business.” It saves you money, saves you time, makes for happier employees, and it will keep the government out of your hair. So have some sort of safety code in place and do your best to make sure your employees follow it.
The main law is OSHA. If you just have one employee, then it applies to you. It’s a big law with a hefty load of regulations, and you must enact procedures, train employees, post notices, enforce violations, and discipline employees. If you have ten or more employees and are not in the retail trade, real estate, insurance, financial business, or service business (all with some exceptions), then you have reporting requirements. If you violate OSHA, they can levy serious fines on you.
OSHA inspectors can inspect your workplace without notice or a court order, unless you have a workplace with ten or fewer employees in an industry with a low injury rate. If you’re a small business, OSHA more than likely will not inspect you unless one of your employees has made a complaint to OSHA, a worker has died at the workplace, or three or more employees are hospitalized because of a workplace condition. You can refuse to let OSHA in for an inspection without a court order, but that just makes them mad. You can always ask for an extension of time to talk with your lawyer.
If you have an employee, then you must get workers’ compensation insurance. Here’s how it works. Worker’s comp is a no-fault system. If your employee is injured while at work, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault (unless you intentionally caused the injury), they get worker’s comp. But your liability is limited by law to partial wage replacement and payment of medical bills. Your insurer covers these costs which means you’re only liable for premiums and any amounts not covered by your insurer. The premium is based on your industry and payroll.
Another big area is drug and alcohol abuse. You may combat alcohol and illegal drug use in the workplace; you don’t need to tolerate absenteeism, tardiness, poor job performance, or accidents caused by substance abuse; but you must have a written program in place if you want to require drug testing. The program should cover pre-employment testing, post employment testing, and other testing standards. Alcoholism is subject to the ADA.
If someone is injured on the job, then seek medical attention right away, then complete an accident report, file a worker’s comp claim, report the accident to OSHA, and consider disciplinary action on the employees who contributed to causing the accident.
If you designate a smoking area, it must be ventilated so that non-smokers aren’t subject to second-hand smoke.