The following article is a guest post from Felicia Baratz-Savage who is a writer and graphic artist living in Indianapolis, IN. As a contributor for Cooks & Travel Books, she specializes in travel, culture and education.
The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets the standards for workplace safety. Failure to meet these standards can result in steep fines, civil lawsuits, and even the closure of your business until conditions are improved. Ensuring your establishment is in compliance with OSHA’s regulations should be a top priority in the management of your business.
Though the notion of a government department having the authority to shut down your restaurant may be intimidating, OSHA standards aren’t unreasonable. In fact, standards largely follow the same set of guidelines you likely already have in place at your establishment in order to provide a safe venue for customers and employees.
Some of these OSHA standards include:
· Orderly, sanitary workspaces, storage rooms and halls, kept dry and free of debris, holes, and loose floorboards
· Unobstructed exit routes and emergency evacuation plans
· Effective, working ventilation systems
· Safe handling of hazardous materials, such as cleaning products
· Proper maintenance and sanitation of protective equipment for employees where needed
· Potable, or drinkable, water, and working sinks and toilets
· Safe operation of mechanical equipment to ensure employee safety
· Examination of all potentially harmful equipment on a routine basis
OSHA covers both public and private companies, and may conduct an inspection of any business at-will. Conditions of imminent danger, major workplace accidents, worker complaints and high injury rates at a place of business are top OSHA priorities, according to OSHA enforcement.
If OSHA inspectors come to your establishment, they may be looking for one specific violation, though they will likely inspect the entire place of business to look for failure to meet other regulations while they are on site. Each violation an OSHA compliance officer finds can result in a fine. OSHA fines can be between $5,000 and $70,000 for a single violation.
Compliance with OSHA standards
Though the consequences for violating OSHA standards can be steep, as a restaurant owner, you shouldn’t look at OSHA as a meddling threat. The agency’s sole focus is on ensuring the safety of employees, not on putting companies out of business, and savvy business owners can use OSHA standards to make good business decisions.
Since walking surfaces must be free of protruding nails and loose boards to meet OSHA standards, you may choose to forego the cheap flooring advertised in the local paper, for instance, and spend a little more to go with a company that has the best reputation.
OSHA inspectors want to make sure ventilation systems work properly, so it makes sense to have them professionally inspected once a year.
Since water must be drinkable, you might outfit the refrigerators in the kitchen with filtration systems, so that you don’t have to depend upon the safety of the tap water flowing into your restaurant.
By taking minor steps toward creating the healthiest, safest environment you can for employees and patrons, you need not worry about OSHA. Minimum OSHA requirements are met with minimal work. Read OSHA’s guidelines and you’ll probably find that you’re already in compliance with most of them. And if you do find areas where you need to make a change, act quickly, so you can be confident you’re ready for an OSHA inspection.