Inspections can help uncover hazards and reduce risk
A visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a very real possibility for any rental business. An OSHA inspection can be scheduled for several reasons including a complaint, imminent danger, a workplace accident or a fatality, or a follow-up from a previous visit. Inspections are generally conducted without advance notice.
If you look up to see a representative from OSHA at your counter, treat them as you would any visitor to your store. Ask to see their ID or credentials. You want to be sure they are who they say they are. If necessary, you may verify the identity of the officer by contacting the nearest OSHA office. You want to confirm that they are at the correct location. Ask to see the paperwork that contains the name and address of your business. Ask for the purpose of the inspection.
The compliance safety officer will need to verify recordkeeping, review documentation of safety compliance and training, perform a site inspection and interview select employees.
n Recordkeeping. You will need to provide OSHA Form 300, your log of work-related injuries and illnesses. You need to include the first report of injury for every log entry on Form 300. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) also must be available for review by the safety officer. Ensure that your employees know where the MSDS sheets are kept — the safety officer will ask for them.
n Documentation review. Proof of employee training and written safety compliance programs, as well as development and execution of the written programs will be under review by the compliance safety officer.
n Site inspection. The OSHA representative, employer representative, employee representative and, optionally, a maintenance person will go through the facility and inspect work areas for safety or health hazards. Someone who is familiar with your written programs, as well as the facility, should accompany the inspector at all times to ensure questions can be answered appropriately. If possible, arrange for an on-site maintenance employee to accompany the officer during the inspection. If possible, correct any discrepancies on the spot. This generally indicates a gesture of good faith. Take before and after photographs of every improvement made. If the compliance safety officer takes a picture, you take a picture. If the officer performs a test, you do a test. If sound levels are an issue, be prepared to take your own sound-level readings.
n Employee interviews. The safety officer may want to speak with employees, managers and a labor representative if yours is a union shop.
After the inspection and before the compliance safety officer leaves your premises, you will have a closing conference. The inspector will discuss all unsafe or unhealthy conditions found or observed during the inspection and indicate apparent violations for which a citation may be issued or recommended. He should in no way indicate or specify what citations or penalties will be imposed — only the OSHA area director has that authority.
During the closing conference, you may choose to provide records, documentation or information to the officer in support of your efforts toward compliance. You may provide information that will assist OSHA in the determination of the amount of time necessary for abatement. Take good notes during the post-inspection conference as the inspector’s comments are items that might show up in citations.
If you receive citations following an OSHA inspection, you have several options. You may pay the penalties, contest the citations by completing a “notice to contest” within 15 days of the inspection and prepare to go to court, or use the “informal conference” to challenge the citations and penalties.
The “informal conference” is one of the most common responses. Meeting with the OSHA area director within 15 days of receiving the citations enables you to challenge the citations and penalties without going to court. You will have the opportunity to obtain a better explanation for the violations, discuss ways to correct violations and resolve disputed violations. You can make your case to eliminate the citation altogether, reduce the severity of the citation classification, reduce the penalty amount or revise something about the abatement.
Prior to the day OSHA comes calling, conduct surprise self-inspections to ensure your organization is fully prepared and in compliance. Your self-inspections should cover safety and health issues in order to prevent common workplace hazards and accidents waiting to happen.
Taking the time to assess your workplace and identify potential hazards, establishing policies and procedures in accordance with
OSHA standards, and implementing proper training and safety measures will improve the safety of your workplace.
For additional information, visit osha.gov. ReSource, an online source of information for ARA Insurance customers, contains a category devoted to all things OSHA.
Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is risk management coordinator for ARA Insurance, Kansas City, Mo. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.