OSHA And Your Martial Arts Studio

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Nov 14th, 2014

As a Health and Safety professional, I've spent the last few weeks in regular meetings with senior managers and various local community health departments regarding the “Ebola scare”. I doubt that any Martial Arts instructors will be dealing with this issue in their studios, but it occurred to me, how many studio owners understand their health and safety responsibilities under state and federal law? I've written on the subject of studio emergency readiness before (see Are You Prepared published last year). This article will deal with regulations here in the United States; so, our international readers should contact their local authorities regarding health and safety requirements in their respective countries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (establishing OSHA) was passed in 1970. Section 5 (a) (1) states: Each employer (1) Shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious harm to his employees.

As a studio owner, you are considered an employee of the studio. Also, if anyone works for you, with or without compensation, they would be considered an employee under the OSH Act. Here are a few areas you will want to investigate to understand your legal and moral responsibilities for your safety and the safety of your employees and students.

1910.151 Medical Services and First AidUnder this regulation, Paragraph (b) states, “In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity…a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. You are also required to maintain adequate first aid supplies in an area that allows easy access to all in case of emergency.

OSHA has long interpreted “near proximity” to mean that emergency care must be available within no more than 3-4 minutes from your workplace (studio). We know that for serious injuries such as those involving stopped breathing, cardiac arrest, or uncontrolled bleeding first aid treatment must be provided within the first few minutes to limit the possibility of permanent impairment or death.

1910.1030 Bloodborne PathogensUnder this regulation, employees who have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids must be protected. Occupational exposure means possible skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral (by a sharp instrument) contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties. While you may not train with live blades in your studio, a student with a bloody nose may be a common occurrence. This regulation requires you to create a Bloodborne Pathogens Control Plan for your studio and train your employees on the preventive measures in your plan and the dangers of contact with blood annually.

1910.157 Fire ExtinguishersIf you have fire extinguishers in your facility, this regulation requires you to train your employees annually on how to use a fire extinguisher. You are also obligated to check the extinguishers at certain intervals to assure they function properly.

There are many other areas that you may be required to comply with OSHA regulations in your studio. For example, who cleans your studio and how often? If you have a cleaning service, then you may not need to comply with the OSHA 1910.1200 Hazard Communication standard. If you and your employees clean your studio, you’ll need to create a chemical list of all the various chemicals used in your facility. You’ll need to train all employees on the hazards of the various cleaning solutions you use. You’ll need to create a written plan for Hazardous Communication and keep Safety Data Sheets for all the chemicals you use.

There are 26 states that have their own safety standards. Maryland, the state I live in, requires that you have a chemical description of each chemical in your list. Also, under MOSH (Maryland Occupational Safety and Health) you must submit your updated chemical list to the Maryland Department of the Environment every two years. This is not required by federal OSHA, it is a state-specific requirement. I suggest you check with someone at your individual state’s department of labor for any specific regulations regarding your studio. I’ve consulted with many studios and other business regarding OSHA compliance. I’d be happy to discuss your compliance issues with you. Just write to me at Finally, whether working with County Health Departments, Martial Artists, or other business owners, I always emphasize the fact that “safety rules are written in blood” meaning that these rules were established because enough people were injured, maimed, or killed to make these laws necessary.

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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