ASSE 2017 – Effectively Handling An OSHA Inspection Under Enforcement-Driven OSHA

ASSE 2017 Safety Conference

SiteHawk is exhibiting again this year at the American Society of Safety Engineer’s conference, Safety 2017 in Denver. If you are attending the show, please drop by booth #844 and introduce yourself.

This morning I had the opportunity to attend the Session, “Effectively Handling An OSHA Inspection Under Enforcement-Drive OSHA” presented by Terry Moon Jr. a partner at Atlanta-based Fisher Phillips. The session was sponsored by the safety and health training provider, ClickSafety.

Why Worry About an OSHA Inspection?

Moon introduced the session with a couple of reminders about why being prepared for an OSHA inspection is so critically important. First he referenced OSHA’s increase in penalties rolled out in August 2016. He then went on to share some details regarding the penalties, both civil and criminal that could result from an OSHA inspection. Those penalties ranged from $12,675 per infraction for “other than serious” infractions to penalties as high as $20,000 and 12 months of jail time. Moon also referenced a significant increase in the number of inspectors.

Two other serious considerations that Moon reviewed included the impact of a safety violation or concern on a company’s brand and the prospect of being eliminated for consideration for projects during the bid process.

Top Tips for Handling an OSHA Investigation

Have a Plan – Moon noted that many clients he works with have simply failed to prepare for the possibility. He suggested that companies should make basic preparations such as identifying the supervisors or managers to deal with OSHA personnel, briefing employees such as a receptionist not to allow OSHA personnel beyond a waiting area or planning the route of a facility tour with an OSHA inspector. Moon went as far as to suggest taking a proactive interest in the relevant area director as a means of predicting potential areas of focus.

Don’t Trigger an Inspection – Moon reported that 90% of OSHA inspections are triggered by employee complaints. Obviously, responding to and addressing worker concerns is important. Moon also warned against obvious or questionable safety practices in the public view, such as at a construction site.

Remember Your Rights – Moon advised attendees to remember that it can be intimidating when an OSHA Compliance Officer arrives, flashes a badge and announces an inspection. He said, “It feels like the FBI just showed up”. However, employers do have rights that include accepting an inspection during reasonable business hours, citing a request at 5 AM as potentially being unreasonable. Other steps included restricting admittance of OSHA personnel to a lobby or waiting room until the appropriate supervisor or manager could be present. Moon urged employers to be cooperative and respectful to OSHA personnel, but to maintain control of the situation.

Don’t Volunteer Information – Just like in the cop dramas on television, it’s better to keep your mouth shut. Moon insisted that clients should cooperate, tell the truth and encourage all employees to be 100% truthful. But he advised caution about bringing up topics that might otherwise not be of interest or concern. He also suggested that as in politics, a cover up can be worse than the crime.

Immediate Abatement – Moon advised employers to have team members working ahead of an OSHA compliance officer and behind. Clean up spills or address obvious concerns in advance, or immediately fix anything that is identified as a potential concern – even while the inspection is still in progress.  Also, review previous inspections or citations and make sure not to have repeat offenses.

In general, the presentation left me with that peace of mind you feel when you’ve had the benefit of good legal counsel. Although I’m certain that if I were responsible for leading the interaction with an OSHA Compliance Officer, I would still be nervous and anxious. But I’d be a little more comfortable knowing that I had completely thought through the scenario, perhaps done some planning, and knew about the legal protections available to me.

Thanks to Terry for an informative and engaging hour of information. And thanks to ClickSafety for sponsoring a very useful session.

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About SiteHawk:

SiteHawk is a global leader in Chemical Data Intelligence and compliance solutions. Our SaaS software and services deliver a complete approach to SDS and chemical data management, providing data, intelligence and reporting to support safety, compliance and risk management. Organizations in virtually every industry worldwide utilize SiteHawk solutions to manage their hazard communication programs, meet EHS compliance and product stewardship initiatives, manage chemical inventories and data, publish safety data sheets and promote workplace safety.