By Ed Foulke –Partner at Fisher & Phillips, Atlanta, Ga.
It is the end of the year and fortunately OSHA has not showed up at your front door to conduct an inspection. You are well aware of OSHA’s increased focus on enforcement and want to ensure that if OSHA does decide to conduct an inspection, your facility is in compliance with applicable safety standards and, therefore, you are in the best position to avoid violations and penalties. This article addresses actions employers should take to minimize the likelihood of OSHA inspections, violations and penalties.
1.) Employers should review their Safety and Health Management Program to ensure it accurately reflects the safety-related policies and procedures currently being utilized.
2.) Employers should review OSHA citations previously received by their companies to avoid repeat violations. OSHA can cite an employer for a repeat violation if the employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition in the past five years. To avoid repeat violations, employers should conduct safety compliance audits periodically to evaluate whether the hazardous conditions underlying previous citations are and continue to be abated.
3.) Employers should evaluate the safety-related risks that exist at their worksites. Employers should review job hazard assessments, and ensure necessary personal protective equipment is readily available to employees and that employees have been trained in its use.
4.) Employers should prepare to handle an OSHA inspection. In this regard, employers should develop an OSHA inspection plan. The plan should establish strategies to properly manage OSHA inspections, including the identification of a supervisor (and a substitute in case the primary supervisor is unavailable when OSHA shows up) who will be responsible for meeting with the OSHA investigator, determining the purpose of the inspection, and handling any requests for documents and interviews.
5.) Employers should review company recordkeeping, including employee and contractor safety and health training and documentation. If training has not been conducted or documentation is missing, action should be taken to remedy the situation.
6.) Employers should review evacuation and emergency response plans. Evacuation routes should be inspected regularly to ensure they are not blocked by debris or stored items. In addition, employers need to ensure employees have received training in relation to actions they are required to take in response to an emergency and that the training is documented.
An end of the year safety compliance review is a simple process that can substantially reduce the likelihood of OSHA inspections, violations and penalties. When taking into consideration OSHA’s increased focus on enforcement and the decrease in flexibility available during negotiations with OSHA in relation to reclassifying violations and reducing penalties, a mid-year safety compliance audit makes good business sense.