FAQs: OSHA for Minnesota businesses

What is OSHA and does it regulate my business?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency responsible for ensuring workplace safety. In many states, OSHA regulates businesses directly. However, some states, including Minnesota, regulate businesses themselves. In Minnesota, most workplace safety regulation is handled by the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA). The federal-level OSHA retains regulatory control over a few areas and industries.

Where do I find MNOSHA standards?

Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) provides an overview of MNOSHA regulations, with links to the text of the state laws and regulations. Regulations are available for purchase in hard copy from the State of Minnesota’s bookstore. Keep in mind that hard copies aren’t necessarily reliable from year to year, since the laws and regulations may be updated.

How do I know if I need to comply with federal standards?

The federal OSHA website identifies areas that it regulates directly. Keep in mind that state and federal regulation is a complicated area, and it’s best to get an attorney’s advice on which regulations apply to your business.

Can MNOSHA penalize me for my employees’ violations?

It depends. Employers are usually liable for their employees’ on-the-job behavior, including failure to follow MNOSHA regulations. If your employee violates a regulation, you may be fined by the DLI.

One exception is employee misconduct. An employer may be able to avoid liability by showing that (a) it established a work rule to prevent a given type of unsafe condition or behavior from occurring, (b) it adequately communicated the rule to employees, (c) it took steps to discover incidents of noncompliance, and (d) it effectively enforced the rule if employees broke it.

To take advantage of this exception, it’s important to know the regulations that apply to your industry and to train and re-train your employees on safety procedures. It’s also critical to actively monitor for violations and establish appropriate discipline.

What if I get a notice of complaint from MNOSHA?

Employees and their representatives can file anonymous complaints about suspected workplace hazards. OSHA may follow up with you by letter describing the hazards identified and requesting that you explain in writing how you have addressed the hazards. They may also require that you display the letter for employees to review.

If you receive a notice of complaint, address the hazards and respond to MNOSHA promptly. The response timeline is often brief (it could be a matter of days). Be aware that failure to respond on time or to indicate that you’ve dealt with the suspected hazards could result in a worksite inspection.

Can MNOSHA inspect my worksite?

MNOSHA is authorized to enter a worksite and inspect during normal business hours or “at other reasonable times.” The DLI overviews the inspection process here.

What happens if a MNOSHA inspector finds regulatory violations at my worksite?

If there are perceived violations at your worksite, the DLI will send a citation that includes a deadline for the violations to be corrected, as well as any proposed fine. You have 20 days to contest the citation and/or the fine; otherwise, they become binding orders. If you do contest the citation, a decision will be made by a DLI review board or by an administrative law judge, unless you and the DLI settle the matter.

If the DLI believes you have not corrected the violation, it can sue you in district court to enforce the order.