Because of OSHA’s broad scope, most employers and employees must follow its standards and regulations on occupational health and safety. However, there is a small category of persons exempt from OSHA, i.e., they are safe from citations and punishment if they do not comply with OSHA standards. A full or partial exemption is wholly determinative on whether the person has employees and the number of employees they have.
Self Employed Workers – Full Exemption
Under the OSH Act, the term “employer” means that a “person” is engaged in business and has employees.
That is to say that business owners with no employees are generally not subject to the OSHA, whereas business owners with one or more employees generally are subject to the OSHA. This is true even if the business owner that has employees operates his or her business as a sole proprietorship without the use of a formal business entity, such as corporation, LLC, etc.
Employers with Ten Employees or Less – Partial Exemption
Employers who have ten or fewer employees have a partial exemption from OSHA’s extensive record-keeping requirements. These employers are not required to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless OSHA mandates explicitly for this. However, these employers are nevertheless required to report any workplace injuries or fatalities.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, OSHA recently modified this rule, mandating that all employers report the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers at the workplace. Employers are responsible for reporting cases of COVD-19 if the following are met:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 as provided by the CDC
- The case is work-related; and
- The case involves one or more of the following general criteria: days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, loss of consciousness, medical treatment beyond first aid, or death.
Federal and State Regulated Industries – Full exemption
OSHA does not govern employers and employees in industries that are regulated by Federal and State agencies. For example, mining companies and nuclear power plants do not operate under the authority of OSHA because they are regulated by other government agencies. Also, state government employees are not protected by OSHA, but rather, they are typically protected by a state approved program which has its own regulations that govern.
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Additional OSHA Resources
OSHA Inspections: Follow up Inspections v. Monitoring Inspections