Five pieces of advice to help you avoid big fines and bad publicity
The federal government is cranking up its workplace safety inspections, especially targeting repeat offenders and companies with unusually high reports of workplace injuries or illnesses.
In fiscal 2003, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) conducted 39,817 inspections, a 6% increase over the previous year.
In those inspections last year, OSHA found 83,539 total safety violations, an 8% increase over fiscal 2002. The agency also slapped 404 companies with “willful violations” (the most costly penalty), a 22% increase over the previous year.
To avoid an inspection in the first place, run a safe business or be in a safe industry.
But if you are targeted, here are five pieces of advice to help you avoid big fines and bad publicity:
1. Assign a specific person to hold the record keeping job, maintain up-to-date written programs and speak with any safety inspectors. During an inspection, that person should stay with the inspec- tor and take notes on what is inspected and who is interviewed;
2. Limit the scope of an inspection. At the opening conference, inquire about the visits purpose and scope. Keep a copy of the warrant (if there is one) during the inspection. You hold the right to object if an inspector looks at certain records or a machine that is not specified. Failure to object implies consent. You don’t have to allow interviews with employees, if it will interfere with production;
3. Don’t admit a violation. If one is alleged, say nothing or that you’ll study the situation. If the inspector asks how long you require for abatement, a reply of, say, 90 days is tantamount to admit- ting that a violation exists;
4. Ask for a receipt for all paperwork or physical samples, plus copies of all video and photographs taken. Audio tape the closing meeting; and 5. If you’re selected for reinspection, insist on limiting the investigation to those previous violations. Otherwise, new officers may cite any hazard in plain view.
One final note: Don’t wait for the inspectors to knock before obtaining copy of OSHA’s booklet Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection. Find it at www.osha.gov/publications/osha3000.pdf or order a free copy by calling 800/321-6742.
This article was supplied by the National Institute of Business Management. For further information, visit www.nibm.net or phone 800/543-2055.