Be Prepared if OSHA Knocks on Your Door
Many employers are caught off guard when OSHA calls. This has resulted in unnecessary and more costly violations. Many OSHA visits are the result of complaints and significant employee injuries when in-patient hospitalization is involved. For example, OSHA revised their accident notification rules a few years ago mandating OSHA reporting if one worker requires in-patient care. The prior rule required notification if hospitalization involved three or more employees.
When OSHA is informed of complaints by employees, former employees, or others, OSHA is obligated to respond to them. They may come onsite or send an official letter requiring a formal response to the complaint. Aside from other circumstances prompting a visit, employers should, absolutely, understand their employees’ rights and theirs. I have recommended an OSHA inspection or investigation be added as part of the employer’s emergency response program. An emergency response plan is required of employers and typically includes fire, security, dangerous weather, and other events as is reasonably foreseeable with the nature of business operations. Accordingly, the employer has made some preparations to address them for the safety of their workers and also minimizing property losses and business interruption.
There is a uniform process with OSHA inspections/investigations employers should be familiar with. It begins with assurance that the OSHA Compliance Officer is who he or she says they are. Initial conversation includes the purpose and the scope of their visit, and again with preparation, the employer will be in a position to respond to what OSHA is going to do more error-free. Most often OSHA will initially want to see the required recordkeeping documents, the 300 log and annual summary page (for those required to maintain them). [Author’s Note: This is a plug for keeping these records current and accurate!] OSHA often may want to have an employee (not employer) representative accompany them on the inspection, especially if workers are unionized. Other components of the process include taking good notes during the inspection, taking photographs (as taken by OSHA), and especially a quality closing conference! Overlooking the details with the closing conference with the OSHA Compliance Officer, post-inspection, has been an area generating unnecessary violations.
Bottom line: Please take some time to become familiar with the OSHA inspection process, and consider adding this to your company’s emergency response plan.
Ron Humphreys is an authorized OSHA Trainer and Safety Consultant for The Starr Group. He provides Risk Reduction Services to The Starr Group’s Commerical Customers.