Are You Prepared for OSHA?
In this three-part series, we discuss getting ready for an OSHA job site visit. In Part 1, we will go through pre-inspection planning. Part 2 will cover what you do during an inspection, and Part 3 will discuss post-inspection defense and resolution.
Part 1: Pre-Inspection Planning
If your company expects an Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) inspection, getting ready may feel daunting. There are so many issues to manage, and you may worry about what the Certified Safety & Health Officials (CSHOs) will find. These inspectors are tasked with ensuring workplace safety, and in their zeal for doing their jobs well, they can sometimes undermine businesses and tarnish their reputations. To avoid a negative experience, it is critical that you prepare your worksite for inspection and always be ready.
Whether you have an inspection on the horizon or not, when it comes to managing OSHA, the best defense is a good offense. To secure that offense, make sure your safety protocols are in place and consistent. In general, OSHA expects every employer to follow these guidelines:
- The company creates and maintains an employee manual containing safety and disciplinary policies and distributes it to all employees.
- Upon initial hire, each employee receives a manual and completes safety training.
- All employees undergo regular safety refresher training.
- Company leadership conducts frequent inspections of employees and worksites to ensure safety compliance.
- Any safety violators are disciplined and then retrained.
The Employee Manual
A key component in the safety plan is a detailed and updated employee manual. This manual should include all safety policies and disciplinary procedures. It is imperative that you provide a manual to every employee and a copy is available on every job site and in every vehicle. Such availability proves to OSHA that all employees have access to the safety protocols.
Note that you are required to provide your employee manual, as well as all policies and documents, in a language that your employees can understand. If you have non-English speaking workers, ensure that copies of all these materials are available in their native languages.
Understand that CHSOs require documentation for everything. So it is critical that you have signed and dated records of employee training, accidents, injuries, disciplinary actions, retraining, and all other safety issues.
In addition, be sure you maintain an authorized user list for all employees who use heavy equipment and other specialized machinery. Document their expertise with signed and dated training records. Also, keep a chemical inventory list, including signed and dated records of employee training for handling these potentially dangerous materials.
Records and Reporting
As you likely know, maintaining good records and reporting workplace injuries and illnesses are OSHA requirements. Contractors with more than ten employees must record a new case of a work-related illness or injury if it results in a death, days away from the job, restricted work, transfer to a different position, medical attention beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness. They must also record an incident that involves a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. Note that this requirement applies to employees who are on the payroll, as well as those who are regularly supervised on site.
An injury or illness is considered a new case if the employee has never experienced it before or has experienced it but had fully recovered. It is deemed to be work-related if conditions in the work environment caused the issue or aggravated a pre-existing condition. The following forms must be completed:
- OSHA 300 – Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Within seven calendar days of receiving information of a recordable injury or illness, you must enter a one- or two-line description for each incident.
- OSHA 301 – Injury and Illness Incident Report
Within seven calendar days of receiving information of a recordable injury or illness, you must complete an incident report for each recordable injury or illness entered on the 300 Log.
- OSHA 300-A – Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
At the end of each calendar year, you must review the 300 Log to correct any omissions and verify that all entries are complete and accurate. Then you must create an annual summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded on the 300 Log, have it certified by a company executive, and post it in the workplace no later than February 1 of the following year and through April 30.
During an inspection, the CSHO will likely ask to review all your records, and you need to comply within four hours, so good recordkeeping is critical. OSHA will often use these forms as evidence when investigating safety violations.
When a serious injury or accident occurs, employers need to move quickly. After getting the necessary medical help, it is essential to report the issue to OSHA right away. OSHA has set the following guidelines:
- Within eight hours, you must report to OSHA all work-related fatalities that occur within 30 days of a work-related incident.
- Within 24 hours, you must report to OSHA all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and loss of an eye(s) that occur within 24 hours of a work-related incident.
You must file the report by calling OSHA’s free and confidential number at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), calling the nearest OSHA Area Office during business hours, or completing the OSHA website’s online form. If the Area Office is closed, leaving a voicemail or sending a fax or email is unacceptable; instead, you must either call the 800 number or complete the online form.
Your Online Presence
Keep in mind that no matter what your onsite environment is really like, how you are perceived online matters as well. Review your website to ensure that no images or descriptions could indicate safety hazards. For instance, if you have used any stock photos that show workers not wearing appropriate safety gear, eliminate them. The same concerns hold true for social media and advertising. Review these platforms and materials, and ensure they show your company in a good light. As needed, discuss any worrisome matters with your marketing department so that this team can contribute to your company’s unified commitment to safety.
Next week in Part 2 will cover what you do during an inspection.