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.