Owning a manufacturing company or industrial company presents a unique set of legal challenges, because the business can be subject to significant government regulation. Most small businesses will not have the resources to create a legal department with experts in environmental law, health and safety regulations and other areas of the law. Instead, proactive business owners will establish relationships with knowledgeable attorneys who are experts in these areas to help ensure that the company is in compliance will all applicable regulations.
In some respects, buying or starting a manufacturing business or an industrial company is no different than starting any other type of small business. You'll need to:
- Decide on a legal structure
- Finance the company
- Find appropriately zoned real estate
- Hire employees, and
- Obtain the necessary licenses and permits
But a bigger challenge for the owner of a manufacturing or industrial company will be to ensure that the company is in compliance with local, state and federal regulations, and corrects any violations in a timely manner. In particular, manufacturing and industrial company owners must pay attention to environmental laws, and health and safety laws. On a national level, these are administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Fortunately, small business owners have an ally in Congress, which, in March 1996, passed the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). This law is designed to help small businesses cope with the maze of regulations that may apply to them.
OSHA Assistance for Small Businesses
OSHA offers many benefits for small businesses:
- If your company is fined for OSHA violations, that penalty may be reduced by up to 60% depending on the size of your business
- Recordkeeping rules, regarding occupational illnesses and injuries, are different for companies with 10 or fewer employees
- Small business are able to use free consulting services, funded by OSHA, to help identify workplace hazards and improve a company's health and safety systems
OSHA's Office of Small Business Assistance can provide more information about onsite consulting and serves as a liaison between OSHA and small businesses.
EPA Assistance for Small Businesses
The EPA also offers services specifically for small businesses that interact with the agency. These include:
- A Small Business Division and Small Business Ombudsman, which acts as a liaison between small businesses and the EPA
- A State Small Business Assistance Program that assists small businesses at the state level in complying with the Clear Air Act Amendments of 1990
- Compliance Assistance Centers, which are telephone helplines designed to assist small businesses understand and comply with environmental regulations
- The Small Business Compliance Policy provides incentives to small businesses that identify, disclose and fix violations at their own companies
- The Small Business Environmental Home Page provides compliance tools for small business owners
Questions for Your Attorney
When buying or creating an industrial company or manufacturing company, it's important to hire an attorney who understands the legal nuances of your industry and the applicable regulatory requirements.
Among the questions to ask your lawyer:
- Have you previously worked with small businesses in my industry?
- How much experience do you have working with industrial or manufacturing companies?
- Do you have experience handling environmental legal issues? Health and safety legal issues?
- If you don't have environmental and OSHA experience, can you recommend an attorney who does?
- How much do you charge for your services?