Small Business Assistance Program

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The NIOSH Small Business Assistance Program seeks to reduce occupational injuries and illnesses in smaller businesses across all industries.

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Small Business Resource Guide
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The Small Business Assistance (SBA) program focuses on conducting research to better prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths in small businesses and increasing awareness and use of effective interventions among small businesses. This includes researching the work environment in small businesses (small business definitions vary, but are often identified as having fewer than 50 employees) and the barriers to prevent workplace illness, injury, and death. The SBA program researches the role of intermediaries (such as insurance companies, trade associations, and chambers of commerce) and the best way to partner with them to connect with small businesses. The SBA program conducts outreach by giving presentations to small business groups; and fosters international collaborations with other small business safety and health leaders through large scientific conferences and informal networking. SBA also collaborates and provides support (such as translation or outreach) to other NIOSH programs and outside partners that do research that may be helpful to small businesses.

Research Priorities

There are approximately six million workplaces in the U.S. that have employees. Eighty-nine percent of them have fewer than 20 employees, and 79% have fewer than 10 employees.1 Smaller firms dominate every major NORA sector. Of the 127 million plus workers employed in 2016 in the U.S., more than 53% worked in establishments with fewer than 100 employees.2 Smaller businesses tend to have higher rates of injuries and illness than their larger counterparts. Additionally, they are less likely to report those illnesses and injuries to government agencies, insurance companies, and other organizations. Small businesses tend to have:

  • Fewer human and capital resources available to devote to the prevention of workplace illnesses, injuries, and fatalities
  • Managers that consider injury and illness incidences to be a minor problem because incidents are infrequent
  • Managers who work in isolation without sufficient access to peer opinion and industry best practices
  • Fewer occupational safety and health (OSH) activities than larger businesses

Intermediary organizations may be a useful way to overcome the difficulties associated with delivering OSH to smaller businesses. Intermediary organizations include:

  • trade associations
  • worker groups
  • insurance companies
  • chambers of commerce
  • small business development centers
  • professional organizations
  • small-business-focused media
  • public health and other government agencies

When disseminated by intermediaries, there may be an increased likelihood of small businesses considering adoption of OSH interventions. Collaborations with intermediaries will also lead to better translation of OSH products, so that scientific materials can be narrowed down to information that can easily be grasped and applied in small business settings.

The Small Business Assistance program focuses on the industry sectors that have a high proportion of small businesses, and contributes to the following goals in the NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2023:


The Small Business Assistance Program Performance One-Pager (PPOP) offers a snapshot of NIOSH programs’ priorities, strategies used to make progress towards priorities, recent accomplishments, and upcoming work.

To learn more

More information and useful resources can be found on the NIOSH small business topic page.

Contact the Small Business Assistance Program Coordinator, Brenda Jacklitsch, with any questions at


1.US Census Bureau [2012]. Statistics for all U.S. firms with paid employees by geographic area, industry, gender, and employment size of firm: 2012. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, icon.

2.US Department of Commerce [2016]. County business patterns. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, icon

Page last reviewed: August 27, 2019