By Buzzy Riis, Hand Arendall
Mobile Section AGC Safety Committee Chairman
Congress has authorized OSHA to substantially increase OSHA penalties. Preparation to reduce the risk and cost of citations should begin before OSHA ever arrives. Of course, the best way to avoid inspection is to have reduced injuries and good employee morale. In fact, a good safety and health record makes sound business sense by reducing worker's compensation costs and other losses. Preparing for an actual inspection is seldom a recommended motive for operating an effective and self-supporting safety program; but there are things that can be addressed to help a company fare better in an inspection. Depending on the company's confidence in its site management and site managers, an inspection policy should be implemented. This policy should explain whether a company will require a warrant, how management will participate and document the inspection as it progresses, and when to proceed with the actual walk-through. Opening conferences, correction procedures, and closing conference information should all be addressed. The idea is to develop a method of dealing with inspection that moves smoothly throughout the process without appearing to be impersonal or deceptive to the compliance officer.
Because many OSHA inspections are triggered by employee complaints and because aggravated employees tend to complicate and deepen inspections, it is extremely important to consistently apply safety programs and discipline for non-compliance to safety issues. In fact, companies showing effective follow-up evidence for employees who deviated from company policies, including managers, can often emerge from inspections without citations. A cooperative atmosphere with employees, sound administration of safety policies and a consistent documentation of disciplinary action will probably do more to prevent accidents and reduce injuries and citations than any other specific action. Because many of the OSHA regulations are unclear and subject to interpretation, a company should read and understand the regulations as they apply to that specific company. The company should also document its rationale behind specific compliance efforts. In the event of a discrepancy with the compliance officer, this action will enable the company to show that due diligence was taken when developing their programming for compliance.