Monday, February 21, 2011

Preparing for OSHA Inspections

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is tasked with ensuring safety for workers in the United States. It is in your best interests to comply as fully as possible with all applicable OSHA standards. By implementing a preventative occupational safety and health program we achieve a number of valuable results.

By taking steps to reduce the incidence of employee injuries and illnesses, employers show employees that they care for their welfare. If properly communicated to employees, a good program can lead to increased loyalty, job satisfaction and productivity and to decreased turnover.

To secure a safe work place and fight rising costs associated with injuries ad illnesses, your defense is a good offense. By instituting a comprehensive safety program and by preparing yourselves in the event that an OSHA inspection does occur, you can strengthen your business both financially and productively.

It is helpful to know some of the common forms of documentation OSHA requests during inspections so that they can be prepared ahead of time for maximum benefit and compliance. Consider enlisting outside help if any of these areas are deficient a your workplace.

1. Safety Program – A written safety program is the cornerstone to any effective workplace safety plan. The program should be specific to the employer, and address hazards that are particular to the worksite. The program should be reviewed periodically to be sure that it addresses hazards in the workplace in a meaningful way. There are resources available to help prepare an effective document, so you should resist the urge to adopt a program from another company, or to copy a program from the internet.

2. Recordkeeping – Each employer with ten or more employees must keep records regarding workplace injuries and illnesses. These are commonly referred to by their form number – the 300 Logs. Employers must keep logs up to date with any injuries and illnesses that meet the criteria set forth in the standard. At the end of each calendar year, the information must be compiled into the Summary (300A) Log and posted conspicuously in February, March, and April. Summary logs must be posted at each jobsite that lasts longer than one year. The logs must also be archived for at least five years.

3. Training – It is incumbent on the employer to provide training to employees regarding the safe performance of their duties. Although documentation for most types of training is not strictly required by the standards, it is a very good practice to retain documentation for any training that employees receive, including dates, topics, and attendees. Be especially aware of the requirements for specialized training like, powered industrial trucks, crane certifications, respirator use, hearing protection, etc. If you are not sure if your workplace requires specialized training, contact Comprehensive Safety Resource to schedule an audit of your jobsite.

4. Hazard Communication – Each employer must keep copies of Material Safety Data Sheets for most chemicals in use in the workplace available to employees. It is important that MSDS’s are reviewed at least annually to ensure that they are up to date and accurate.

No matter how careful we are, there is always a chance that an OSHA official will conduct an inspection of the facility or jobsite. OSHA may carry out an inspection for any of the following five reasons, in order of priority:

1. Imminent Danger – If there is a report of a condition with a high probability of causing death or serious physical harm, an inspection will be initiated.

2. A catastrophe or fatality - If an employment-related fatality or an accident that results in the hospitalization of three or more of your employees occurs, you must report it to OSHA within 8 hours. In this case, OSHA is required to make an inspection.

3. An employee complaint - Generally, OSHA will limit its inspection to the condition(s) alleged in the complaint. At your request, OSHA must provide you with a copy of this complaint, although the employee's name will not be included.

4. Targeted Industry Program investigation - Each year, OSHA selects several industries with high rates of injuries and targets them for increased levels of inspections.

5. General Inspections - Area OSHA offices randomly inspect employers within their jurisdictions.

By preparing the required documentation and training employees in the safe execution of their tasks, you can elevate safety, reduce injury, and increase the chance of a favorable outcome to an OSHA inspection.


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