How to cut your chances of an OSHA inspection in half

by on July 1, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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Fully half of all OSHA inspections come from just two sources:

  • employee complaints, and
  • referrals from local authorities.

Target these two areas, and you can dramatically reduce the odds OSHA will come knocking at your door.

1. Handling complaints
Here are some keys to keep in mind when handling safety complaints.

A. Remind supervisors to encourage workers to bring safety complaints to them first. Frequent, documented reminders to workers to bring forward their safety concerns will accomplish two things:

  • The invitation encourages a real safety dialogue between the company and workers, so workers are less likely to drop the dime at OSHA or local authorities. It keeps the complaint in-house.
  • The documentation helps you build a case against workers who make bad-faith complaints after the fact, e.g., to collect unemployment insurance after being fired.

B. Investigate all safety complaints, whether they’re made in good faith or not. If OSHA shows up investigating a bad-faith complaint, you want a paper trail showing you’ve already looked into it and responded accordingly.

OSHA compliance officers will take note of your work and are more likely to see you as a credible, effective safety organization.

C. Respond quickly when OSHA calls. OSHA will usually give you a heads-up when a worker complains. Even though the complaints are anonymous, the agency will tell you what the complaint was.

You want to fix any problems and follow up immediately. This allows agency bureaucrats to move on to more pressing things. Only when OSHA doesn’t get a response do they start to consider an inspection.

2. Handling referrals
The next biggest trigger: Referrals from local agencies, such as a building or fire inspector.

Some keys:
A. Build a relationship with local inspectors. That means when they show up, you’re already on a first-name basis with them. Have any of their calls to the company referred to you, and know when they’re coming.

Greet them and accompany them from the front door until they leave. That way, the inspector and you can have a constructive conversation about his or her concerns.

B. Make fixes immediately. Fire inspectors, in particular, are likely to call OSHA if they don’t like what they see: Blocked or locked fire exits, for example, violate most municipal ordinances and OSHA regulations. But if local inspectors see a rapid response, they’re less likely to think they need to bring in the Feds to make the point about fixes.

C. Document the inspections. As with employee complaints, you want to protect yourself. Take your own notes, and if the inspector wants measurements and photos, take your own measurements and shoot your own pictures (from more than one angle, in particular). Document any fixes, again with your own measurements and photos.

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