Are you prepared for an OSHA ‘pop-in’?

Dave SinclairBusiness Insurance, Risk Management, Workers Compensation

Dave Sinclair*ring ring ring*

You’re not expecting anyone, but someone’s at the door…it’s your Aunt Elaine, famously resistant to getting a cell phone, who was in the neighborhood and thought she’d take a chance you might be home and drop by.

Aunt Elaine may be great, but let’s face it, nobody loves a pop-in. While we tolerate the occasional boundary-crossing friend or relative with good humor, pop-ins from government officials on official business can be truly unpleasant.

Think IRS field audit, or unexpected OSHA inspection.

Many business owners, especially in the manufacturing or construction industries, dread a visit from OSHA. But if you follow the Boy Scout model and be prepared, an OSHA pop-in should produce less anxiety than one from Aunt Elaine.

A division of the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was born in 1970 via federal legislation that guarantees the right to have a safe workplace. This is not a bad thing. The law requires employers to provide a workplace free of known dangers.  

With millions of workplaces in the United States and just a comparative handful of OSHA compliance officials doing about 100,000 inspections annually, the chances of a random visit are pretty unlikely, but most come about because of whistleblower workers, who can confidentially file complaints.

How do you avoid that? Simple. Keep it Safe.

Easy, right?

Not exactly.

Operator error, failing parts, accidents — a number of factors can contribute to a situation that eventually prompts an OSHA visit. Having a plan in place will make the process significantly less difficult.

1. Identify the primary point of contact for OSHA: you as the business owner, shop foreman, COO, whatever makes sense for you situation. Have a backup person identified OSHAin case you or your primary point of contact is not on site the day of the visit.

2. Be sure the visitor is indeed from OSHA and not an impostor.

3. Have your safety documentation and records in order and easily accessible. If you appear disorganized or flustered, it will raise suspicions.

4. Smile and be polite. A good attitude is likely to be returned.

This excellent article goes into more detail about what to expect during an OSHA visit.

Keep in mind that your responsibility goes beyond keeping the workplace safe. OSHA also requires employers to:

• Inform employees about hazards.
• Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• Perform tests such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
• Provide medical tests required by OSHA standards.
• Prominently post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and an OSHA poster.
• Notify OSHA of all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, serious injuries within 24 hours.
• Not discriminate or retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law.

Find out more about that in my blog here.

Unsure about your OSHA preparation level? My team at Sinclair lives and breathes risk management and can help you handle a pop-in, maybe not from Aunt Elaine, but definitely from OSHA.

Dave Sinclair

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management