Which OSHA Regulations Apply to Your Business?

Does your business need to comply with OSHA regulations? This is the year to find out.

As OSHA regains some teeth in 2021 and beyond and increases inspections and citations, all businesses need to reassess their OSHA compliance program. Otherwise, you could be looking at significant fines, a loss of resources, and a decrease in competitiveness in your industry.

Here’s the good news: not every business needs to worry about every single standard. In addition to the General Duty Clause, your business has a list of applicable standards, often related to the hazards you have at your workplace.

Find out which OSHA standards apply to your sector in this guide.

Does OSHA Apply to My Business?

OSHA regulations cover all industries under their general industry rules. A second, more specific set of rules apply to construction, maritime, and agricultural operations.

General Industry Standards (29 CFR 1910) apply to all industries covered by federal OSHA or one of 22 state-approved plans. An individual or team at your company should regularly examine all industry standards to determine which ones apply to your organization.

You don’t have to do it alone. OSHA provides publications searchable by industry and free consulting to assist you.

Who Is Exempt from OSHA?

The vast majority of private sector employers are covered by OSHA regulations. Unless you have confirmation that you don’t need t comply with OSHA, you should assume that OSHA standards apply.

Excluded organizations are a very short list: self-employed people, the federal government, state governments, churches.

Additionally, there are some businesses that aren’t under OSHA’s umbrella because they fall under the purview of another regulatory body. These include:

  • Nuclear operations
  • Mining operations
  • Domestic services employers
  • Farms with fewer then 10 non-family employees and no labor camp

List of OSHA Standards for Common Business Types

Here is a sample of specific OSHA-regulated industries and where to find the standards for each:

General Industry Regulations

OSHA Regulations for All Businesses and Nonprofits

Every business under federal OSHA must adhere to either the General Industry (29 CFR 1910) Standards or the Safety and Health Regulations for Construction (29 CFR 1926).

Whistleblower Protection statutes also apply to all employees covered by OSHA regardless of industry.

Recordkeeping (29 CFR 1904) standards only apply to certain companies and industries. For example, employers with 10 or fewer employees and business establishments in certain industry classifications are partially exempt from keeping OSHA injury and illness records.

Here are a few General Industry subparts that likely apply to your situation. (Please note that for easy navigation, the links below take you to a specific subpage. To see all the regulations under a specific subpart, start here.)

If you directly employ janitorial staff or a handyman, examine 1910 Subpart P – Hand and Portable Powered Tools and Equipment and 1910 Subpart S – Electrical to ensure you’re following general industry requirements for maintenance work.

Medical Industry

Hospital, Medical & Dental

General industry standards also apply to the healthcare industry. Each organization must examine all 1910 regulations to determine which apply.

Typically, subparts 1910.1030 – Bloodborne pathogens (needle handling and safety) and 1910 Subpart H – Hazardous Materials (compressed gases, oxygen, nitrous oxide, etc.) have a more stringent application in healthcare entities.

University Campus

OSHA Regulations for Education

OSHA regulations govern both public and private educational institutions. Educational institutions must adhere to general industry standards including but not limited to statutes contained under:

Elementary and secondary schools, higher education institutions, and educational support services are not required to keep an OSHA 300 log and are exempt from OSHA Recordkeeping Regulations.

Warehousing Industry


Retail, logistics, and other industries operating warehouses must abide by General Industry Standards with particular attention to:

Warehouses must also ensure they are protecting workers from:

To apply the patchwork of OSHA warehousing standards, read our Practical Guide to Warehouse Safety.

Transportation Industry Regulations


Like warehousing, the transportation industry must abide by the General Industry Standards and, with a few exceptions, Recordkeeping Standards.

Specific regulations related to construction vehicles and equipment can be found in 1926 Subpart O – Motor vehicles, including 1926.600 – Equipment, 1926.601 – Motor vehicles, and 1926.602 – Material handling equipment.

Other driving and road safety standards are regulated by:

Osha Manufacturing


Manufacturing companies and plants must adhere to general industry standards including but not limited to statutes contained under:

OSHA provides a list of compliance resources for specific areas of manufacturing, such as apparel, batteries, concrete products, and more.

Lab Beakers

Labs & Breweries

Laboratory and brewing operations are regulated under the General Industry Standards.

The chemical and toxic substances handling, storage, and signage standards largely contained in 1910 Subpart Z and include:

Also applicable are:

Telecom Tower


In addition to following the General Industry Regulations, the telecommunications industry must adhere to a dedicated section under Subpart R: 1910.268 Telecommunications. This section covers conditions, processes, methods, and installations performed at telecommunications centers and in the field.

If your employees are engaged in the construction or site work, CFR 29 1926 Standards apply as well.

Electric Utilities OSHA Regulations

Electric utility companies must follow the General Industry Standards, including a dedicated section under Subpart R: 1910.269 – Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution.

As with telecommunications companies, CFR 29 1926 Standards may apply if your employees are engaged in the construction or site work.

Utility managers should study the OSHA interpretation concerning training and licensing requirements for side-boom and low-capacity crane operators. There is also a special status for Digger-Dereck equipment operators.

OSHA Standards PDFs

No one expects a safety professional to memorize every OSHA standard that applies to their business. You may find it easier to print out the PDF version of the standards and any applicable fact sheets for quick reference.

The following can be found on OSHA’s publications page:

How to Comply with OSHA Regulations

To be considered OSHA compliant, employers must identify and fix any health and safety hazards by utilizing the Hierarchy of Controls approach.

NIOSH defines the hierarchy of controls as addressing hazards through the following controls:

  1. Elimination
  2. Substitution
  3. Engineering Controls
  4. Administrative Controls
  5. PPE

Where there is no specific standard for your organization, you must adhere to the General Duty Clause.

The OSHA General Duty Clause says: “each employer shall furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Guidance on best practices in safety exceeding OSHA compliance requirements can be found in consensus standards published by nonprofit standard-making organizations such as NFPA, ANSI, and ASME.

OSHA Recordkeeping Standards only apply to certain types of businesses. If your company type is not on the list of exempt companies, you must prepare and maintain records of serious workplace injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Log.

Where Can You Go for Help with OSHA?

You can find more resources for your industry on OSHA’s compliance assistance page.

If you’re still unclear on how a specific standard affects day-to-day operations, you can reference interpretations as a guide or submit a request for clarification.

If you want to go a step further, you may invite OSHA consultation services to audit your worksites. You will be required to correct any violations, and as long as you do so within the provided amount of time, OSHA inspection services will not be notified.

Get to Know OSHA Requirements for Employers

OSHA regulations don’t exist to hassle employers. Their purpose is to keep employees as safe and healthy as possible by eliminating and controlling hazards.

While you may not have heard much from OSHA in the last four years, there is a new commitment to increase inspection staff. So, there’s never been a better time to not only meet OSHA requirements but even exceed them.

Are you ready to get started? Get free resources in Safesite’s template library or schedule a demo to learn how Safesite can streamline OSHA compliance for your organization.

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Dave Paoletta

By Dave Paoletta

David Paoletta, MS, MBA, CSP, CUSP, is a research analyst and subject matter expert for Safesite, a safety management software company based in San Francisco, CA. He is also a principal consultant with New Dimensions in Safety in Alameda, CA. David has extensive utility field safety experience with PG&E and PNM New Mexico. He is a Past NM ASSE SPY Award winner and a Past President of the San Francisco Chapter ASSE.

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