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Sasha Laferte: Hi everyone! Welcome to today’s webinar and what to do during an (OSHA) inspection. My name is Sasha and I'll be your moderator for today.
Before we get started, I just want to give you a brief overview on what today’s webinar is going to entail and a short introduction for our speaker.
Today’s webinar will start with the slide show presentation by our in-house expert Rick Foote. He’ll be discussing a variety of topics all related to OSHA inspection preparedness. Such topics include plan creation and best practices during an audit. We'll then move in to some case studies on OSHA inspection preparedness. There will be an open Question and Answer (Q&A) at the end of the presentation, so feel free to send us your question or comments. You can do this by tweeting us @triumvirate or using the #OSHA. If you don't have a Twitter you can ask the question by typing them into your chat pane where it says “Question” on the right.
Today’s speaker, Rick Foote is the Industrial Consulting Services Manager at Triumvirate Environmental. Rick has over 25 years of EHS experience. He's an OSHA 501 Instructor and has spoken at many conferences including Northern New England State Health conference and ASSE Regional conference. He has helped bring numerous organizations into completing OSHA compliance and with that let’s start our presentation. Over to you, Rick.
Rick Foote: Okay, Thank you Sasha. Good afternoon everybody. So as Sasha mentioned, today were going to talk about how to best be prepared for an OSHA inspection.
As many of you know OSHA has been very busy as of today and as you can see on the slides here OSHA has conducted well over 92,000 inspections, and out of those 92,000 there's been over a 188,000 violations. So you can see that almost every OSHA inspection there is findings, and what we want to do today is discuss with you, how to better prepare yourself for that type of inspection.
So with that, as most of OSHA presentations, I like to start off with just reviewing the Top 10 violations for the past year of 2013. I always say to everybody is think about your own facility, would you have a potential violation with any of these.
Obviously, at the top is the Hazard Communication Standard, and we have Respiratory Protection which most time findings on that include not doing the annual fit testing, and so on. Electrical is another one that's a National Emphasis Program especially with the changes to the electrical regulations and adopting the 70 East Standard which is the National Electrical Standard including our flash, we have Powered Industrial Trucks, Lockout Tag Out, General Machine Guarding again another electrical just more on the system design feature, and also Personal Protective Equipment, Fall Protection and then Exit Routes.
Okay, so what I like to discuss now is, “Are you ready for OSHA to knock at the door?” If I can see a hand raised from all of you, how many of you could actually raise your hand and say you’re ready for OSHA to show up at your door? Most times, when I asked that most people say, “Were not ready." So hopefully today, we’ll help you prepare a little bit better for that.
With anything, preparation is the always the key. If you are prepared, you should not worry about OSHA knocking at your door. That’s what we’re going to talk about now is what we can do to prepare for that.
One of the first things that we always recommend is to form an actual committee. The committee should consist of numerous different people from your different departments within each of your facilities. I know we have representations from all different types of companies and universities etcetera. So I tried to summarize here, different groups because each one of them will have some significance to your program because as we all know EHS managers, facility managers, purchasing managers or whoever you are, there are other people in your organization that can also help you with some of your OSHA compliance. For example, like your facilities department, OSHA may have questions around your ventilation systems so it’s always a good thing to know that is, “Okay, how does that work?” They can easily answer your questions for you or when OSHA has that question, you know who to refer to. These are just the few people, so the idea here is to set up an escort committee. We used the word ‘escort’ because these are the people that maybe involved during the incident, during the inspection I should say, and you want to have them well prepared in advance.
You also want to organize all of your internal resources and that includes figuring out what are you going to do and how are you going to do it. Especially around logistics and planning, you should have an idea of, “How can we take them through the facility? What if they comment for one specific complaint that somebody may have?” Because everybody ask that question, “How do we get inspected by OSHA?”
The most common way to get inspected by OSHA is by an employee complaint. We all know that all our employees are extremely happy at our facilities, correct? And usually, that’s what will happen is when an employee have a complaint and then OSHA will come in and look at one specific item. So if that happens how do know on how are you going to take them around the facility, are you going to walk the outside or walk them direct to the facility? If you start showing them around your facility, then they are going to start looking at other things or potentially look at other things in your facility.
You also want to talk about who’s taking the lead, what are the responsibilities, how about communication systems, how are you going to communicate, who’s going to do that, who’s going to be the lead talker, who’s going to seat on the opening conference and closing conference. These are all the things you want to organize well in advance.
If you have an inspection preparedness committee, this will help you to organize and also to facilitate the opening conference. The idea of the opening conference is best serve to really show how good you guys are. You want to show them that, “We’re well organized. We’re all ready for you. You don’t scare us.” And that is always a good thing for an inspector.
The second thing that the preparedness committee can do is works out his schedule with the inspectors with how long they are going to be there. I know of inspections that have gone on for 30 days. Those can be really long. I think you want to know up front and this is something you want to work out, so that you'll know who’s going to be there, who’s not going to be there. You can really set all of that up. You want to coordinate the inspections with different managers within the group. Each person or each company has their own work shifts or task that needs to be completed so you want to set that up with the inspectors to know, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do and when they’re going to do it.” They understand people go on vacation, there are all kinds of other issues that may arise but you already want to have this planned out and how are you going to address it before the inspectors show up.
Obviously, with anything else during the inspections, you want to do daily debriefings, you want to know who’s going to be in that room that day, how many people are there, what are you going to talk about it, how are you going to talk about it, how are you going to record the information that thing you are going to talk about. This is all important because at the end of that day you may decide that you are going to do some type of clean-up of some of the issues in advance so the next day you can show them that we did all of this in advance.
You also want to organize and make sure you can facilitate the closing conference and who’s going to be in there. You always want to have high up, as possible for people within the organizations in there, if it’s the president or the vice president, dean, whatever the titles are at your facility it’s always good to know how you’re going to do it and who you expect to have in that room.
The escorts that you have, they all should also be trained because you want to make sure for that the people you have walking around with the inspectors are fully knowledgeable in how to answer questions or how not to answer questions. As we all know most inspectors try to become very friendly with us and then most of us will start really talking and may slip off and say something that they shouldn’t. These persons should understand the severity of this and that saying something incorrectly could be a major issue going along. You want to make sure that they also know how to intercede when there are leading questions because we all know who have been through OSHA inspection is inspectors can lead certain individuals into an answer. They want to make sure that they try to get an answer.
Also, most importantly, is the third bullet here, which is to allow the person, since they know the language of your facility, as we all know that every company has its own language in what they do and how they do it, so this person would be great to serve to be able to say, “No this is what they are trying to say." OSHA may say it in a very regulatory speak where most employees may not understand that regulatory speak so that will allow them to be able to restate the question to them in better terms.
The last one here is your escorts will if they have a question or a very specific question with specific task at the facility, they can direct that person or they can direct the inspector to the right person to answer that question instead of just arbitrarily picking anybody that may not know the answer.
Really the big thing here is to be prepared as we said. “How are you going to be prepared?" The biggest part here is probably the most daunting too. It’s making sure that all your written plans and records are up to date at all times. I have done many inspections of facilities, probably the number one thing that I find is that plans have been written but they haven’t been timed for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years to some cases. That’s never a good thing. You want to know right now where you stand. You want to know were all those documents are. There’s a lot of inspectors, when they show up in you facility, you’re more than likely going to bring them to the conference room and then some will ask you for, “Okay, show me all of your written plans, your training records and your OSHA 300 log.” Then sit and wait. If they are waiting for half hour for you to come in, well that’s going to show them that you’re probably not very well prepared. So you really want to be able to say, “I have this stuff. I’m ready to go. Let’s do this." If you can’t produce something in a timely manner, let them know. That’s part of your preparedness committee to know who has those documents.
If it’s a larger institution, what I always suggest is have a list of who has what documents and that is something you may even want to share with the inspector and say, "Look, these employees are the people who have these different information." So they can get the information for you or maybe they’re on vacation or something like that and then therefore you can fill in the inspector. You want to have what we call the ‘preparedness plan’. This is how we do everything. Put it all in writing. This is not something you necessarily going to share with the OSHA inspector but it would be something you will share within your facility so everybody knows what their roles and responsibilities are in able to be ready.
With regard to your records and documentation review, you want to assemble only the materials that are requested by OSHA. Some people get more materials that are needed, so you want to make sure that you only give what they requested. If they only request for Communication Standard just give them that don’t give them Lockout Tag-Out Standards also because they could have just sit there and look at that as well. You may have issues in there that you wouldn’t show them originally.
You want to identify a conference room. Do not use your own office for records review. I can honestly say I made that mistake many years ago when I first started, I thought the right thing to do was bring the inspector into my office and I still recall him saying to me, "This is great! You’re showing me 15 years of documentation.” “You only asked for three.” “Yeah, but you’re showing me all of it. I can look at anything now.” So I’ve always said never do those because that taught me to never do that again.
If they make copies of something, also make sure that you make copies of whatever it is that can come in very handy after the fact because after OSHA shows up on your site and you get your nice letter back from them that says, “Hopefully you’re all well and in perfect shape,” which is highly unlikely, but you know when they say that they found this violation that violation, it’s great to have the same records that they have and then you can compare notes and say, "No. We shared that with you and that was documented.”
I always say record all the documents that you sent to them. What did they make copies of, note it, what date, time and what the request was for. That way when you need to understand what it was about you could go back to it.
What I’d like to do now is talk about the inspection process when they show up at your facility. The big part in the inspection is planning. What are you going to do? Are you going to be like "the British are coming" from you facility? Do you have a system in place? Part of your preparedness plan is saying, "Okay we have a system in place.” To be able to go out and say, "Okay we're going to do floor sweeps and we're going to have people go out to check our facility to clean up little bits that they can before the OSHA inspector actually walk out there.
Then when you start looking at your plan, this where you’re going to have the opening conference, who’s going to be the speaker, do you have a slide presentation on what you do? Also, very importantly is you really want to go over all the safety requirements that you have for somebody that enters your facility.
I have done numerous inspections where I have seen the companies have very elaborate safety program but they forget to tell us about it when we get to do the inspection. At the end the day I usually cite them for that, "You didn’t tell me about your safety program." They were like, "We didn’t even think about that." It’s always a good thing to do.
Also make sure you’re coordinating your schedule with OSHA, like lunch, breaks, whatever it is that you need to so everybody is on the same page. You also want to do debriefing with every party that was inspected. I.E., after the fact and you want to go back to those different rooms maybe after OSHA leaves and go back to the people that were spoken to by OSHA. Ask them if they have any questions or anything like that regarding the process. During the opening conference, as I said, you really want to make sure you have everybody in there that you should. You would want to outline that part that you really want to work with OSHA and all the great stuff that you guys do. Don’t give them any other information. Don’t say, "You know we have some issues. We're working on things." Allow them just to direct you into what they want. Discuss with them how important OSHA compliance is to you, the safety of your employees. They know that they’ve heard it all before but again it is all part of your process. They see that that’s going to be helpful during the inspection because the smaller stuff, I don’t want to say to overlook it, but they’ll pass on it a little bit better than if they just think that you’re in a horrible place.
Make sure you have upper management involved. Part of this is saying that safety is priority number one as everybody says. If you don’t have higher upper management in the opening conference, sometimes that looks bad also to say, "Is it really that important?" You want those types of people there to make sure that they are really showing that this is important.
Most importantly is asking them what is the scope of this inspection? Why are they there? What is the most important thing they are looking for? Is it a multimedia? Where are we coming in? We're looking at everything full blown OSHA inspection or you’re here for a specific task such as like today some the National Emphasis Programs such as silica or combustible dust or ergonomics, whatever it is you want to understand, “Okay, that’s what they are looking at,” so that you’ll know when you’re carrying them around your facility that you are taking them to the areas that they are mainly focusing on and not really giving them a general overview of the facility. So once you figured out what it is that you’re doing, you want to make sure that you would accompany each inspector at all times. Be cooperative with them but don’t offer any other information that they have not requested. Again I’ve already mentioned to duplicate all you records and make sure you take good notes especially at the end of the day. What I always like to do is go over my notes with everybody and say, "Okay, this is what heard, this I what I saw, this is what I understood. Are we both on the same page?” If they didn’t ask to take pictures, make sure you take pictures. If they take samples of something, make sure you take samples at the same type of containers because again you don’t want any questions or anything at random. You want to monitor all your employee interviews. Again, as we stated earlier with the escorts is to answer the questions or direct the questions at the right manner.
You want to make sure you conduct the exit interview for each area. You want to find out want did they find. If you see him writing a lot of notes I would be like, “Can I just ask you what you are writing those notes on? Is there something I should be aware or is it just general information that you’re writing down base on the facility?” It’s always good to know because you never want to be surprised when the letter comes back. That way there you can start planning now on how to correct those issues.
Escort guidelines, these are very important. Make sure, especially on the second bullet here stay by the inspector’s side. I’ve seen inspectors where they walk off on their own because somebody is having a conversation with somebody and they could lead themselves into a dangerous situation because you didn’t tell him not to. More importantly, they could be in an area where you didn’t want them to go but they went there anyways. Make sure you take good notes during and after the interview and ask questions. If you cannot answer a question, make sure you tell the OSHA inspector when you get back to him to get the answer to the question. Maybe it’s because person no longer there, the person is on vacation or away at a conference or anything like that. You want to make sure that OSHA inspector knows that you’re not just blowing him off about the question and you want to them the answer and you’re just not sure what it is at this moment.
So now that you know you have some issues or any issues found, as they’re found, if you can, correct them. Any OSHA inspector will tell you that that’s a good thing. It may or may not. It depends on the inspector. It may or may not end up in the final report if it is something minor, then you can correct it right then and there. I’ve seen some situations where it didn’t end up in the final report. They just said, “Great. You took care of it that day. That’s fine.” I have also seen other inspection where it ends up in the final report but it’s says it was corrected the day that they were there. You really want to try to do as much as you can while they’re on site. Also, if you correct it while they’re not on site, they come back the next day you want to point those out to them. You want to point out to them and say, "You brought this issue up. We took care of it last night. Can we take you back to it for you to see it now?" Again, hopefully they will not put that in the report because that’s already taking care of.
Also, importantly, is behind the scenes and those don’t-look-behind-the-curtain type of aspects, is you want to make sure that everybody knows were the inspectors are throughout the day. Where are they in the facility? So that people are aware. I’ve seen inspections where companies would shut down an entire department while the inspectors are on site. Some inspectors don’t like that because they can’t really see what’s going on but they can’t force you not to. I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea it’s just that it’s what some people do. You really want to know also that people are kind of bouncing around in the areas where really want to limit the activities in that area if you can.
The closing conference is possibly the most important part of all of this is the closing conference. This is where you get a real good idea of how did it go. And you see on the slide here, I would say, you would like to have the VP or somebody high up in your facility and maybe an attorney present. The attorney is really strong and that's when you know that things have really gone bad. If you feel like things are really bad then you may want to have an attorney present but it may not be needed. You want to make sure that you can present any documentation that you can of any corrective actions that you did during the inspection. As I mentioned in the previous slide was that it’s always a great idea to do on a daily basis but it’s also at the end of the closing conference. This is your last chance in order to influence or change the inspectors mind that you’ve actually done something to correct that issue.
If you have answers to any of the questions too that you could not answer previously, this is the time that you want to have them answered. Make sure you’re very clear and concise with your answer.
There are more guidelines here for you. You should really be thinking about taking good notes. I can’t stress that enough. They say you have to say something three times for it to sink in. I think I’d say take notes more times than that.
Don’t attempt to deal with hypothetical situation. I have a friend that has this issue. They’ve heard it all before or things like that they don’t want to hear it. Fix any simple deficiency and make copies. Make sure you seek approval from them to take pictures too. Some companies won’t allow pictures to be taken in the facility. Make sure they know that. If they do take them, make them sign an agreement that those pictures won’t be used for any other purpose. It’s your facility. You have to take control.
I always love my first bullet on this one. Don’t offer an opinion or agree or disagree with the inspectors. The worst thing you want to do is to have an argument with an inspector. That’s probably not going to go over very well. It’s good to talk about sports or other things as you try to get their minds off a bit because we all know the patriots will win this weekend and I know we have people from other parts of the country but sorry I’m a patriot’s man.
Don’t be their buddy. That’s always a big thing too. Obviously, don’t sign anything. You should not be required to sign anything. They're going to make sure you do one thing that I know I don’t have in the presentation. Obviously, when they first show up to is ask for credentials. They have to show you their credentials and that they are actually OSHA's.
Keep them from harm’s way. This goes back to what I stated previously, which was don’t allow them to walk off on their own. They may or may not know that they are walking in to a high hazard area. It depends on how you walk them through the facility. They are not going to understand everything that’s goes on there, so it’s very important that you keep them right next to you. Don’t offer them information too, unless specifically asked. Don’t try to give them more information you think that is going to help your cause. Don’t argue with them. We all complain about the regulations but they’re not going to want to hear them from you. And don’t be pushed into giving any answers if you don’t know what the answer is. It is okay tell them you don’t know and that you need to talk to somebody else because that’s part of their program. Don’t be evasive either. Answer the question directly. Make sure you give them a full answer.
Most importantly do not lie to them. That is going to get you, as we all know, lying is never a good thing. Don’t speculate. Again, I can’t stress it enough if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t answer it. It’s all part of the preparedness and again, choosing the people who's going to speak to the OSHA inspectors is the most important part of all of these.
One of the big things that most people fail on during an OSHA inspection also is training requirements. As most of you know, this could be potentially the most daunting task under OSHA, is ensuring that all of your employees are properly trained based on their functions within your facility. You will see on the next few slides here that I have listed out all the OSHA regulations that require training. It’s daunting. I know that to some of you this will not apply to but it is important that you know that each one of these, at least Sasha have mentioned that you would get copies of the presentation, you can go to the hyperlinks that will take you to the training requirement to each one of these.
Unless you have a training matrix along with an employee description in each one of these regulations, each employee is required to be trained under; this is an easy citation for OSHA to site. Everybody needs to be trained on some of these, like the first one Emergency Action Plans. Obviously, today with all of the things that have going on in the world, we really want to make sure our employees are prepared to get out of our facility or prepare to do whatever it takes during an emergency.
I am not going through each one of this individually because we could be here all day with that. You can see here, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a big one. Have employees been trained on how to turn on and off and limitations of PPE? Have you done job hazard analysis or done safety analysis under the PPE standard and have them trained on it? Do you do annual training on Respiratory Protection, Annual Fit Testing, and Lockout/Tag out? Have you trained your authorized employees on Lockout/Tag out procedures? Never mind the other part of Lockout/Tag out which is to verify each one of your Lockout/Tag out procedures on an annual basis. Another one is Fire Protection or Fire Extinguishers. Most companies have fire extinguishers. Are your employees trained to use those properly? If you expect them to use them then they must be trained in how to use them. It is a very common one that’s found.
Depending on what state you’re in, now we'll get into Powered Industrial Trucks. For those of you in Massachusetts, you have other pieces of the regulation like you’re going to get a hoisting license. Every state is a little different with that. With Slings and Hoist, have people been trained on how to inspect the slings and the hoist? If they use them and operate them, you've got to train them on it and you’ve got to document that you trained them on it. Keep moving on here. We got more. Most of these are mainly what applies to most of you on the call especially you know electrical and electrical safety awareness. Everybody needs to be trained on that. The proper use of extension cords, plugs and daisy chaining. I still see a lot of daisy chaining out there when I was doing inspections. I’m sure some of you are saying yes and then for those of you there are not aware what a daisy chain is. It is when you connect two power strips together or the most I’ve ever seen was five connected together. I don’t know if any of you in the audience have seen more than that but five has been my limit. That’s quite a few of them connected together.
Then we get into each one of the specific chemicals that OSHA calls out. And again, if you have any of these, you got to make sure that you’re training your people on the exposure to these chemicals. Not to mention, a very common one that most people don’t train on, is 1910.1020 which is Access to Exposure and Medical records. It’s a very simple regulation that just informs your employees that they have a right to these types of records. There’s a big difference between employee exposure records and medical records. I recently had an OSHA inspector asked a client for that to show him how they train their employees. They had a one page document that showed him, "Okay, this is what we tell our employees." The OSHA inspector was very pleased and said it was one of the few that he’s ever seen. So it is one that you may not hear a lot about but it’s a very simple one. Again, more of these, you got Hazard Communication, our favourite one. Everybody's got their training done on the new revised Hazard Communication Standard. I'm sure, then again if we see a raise of hands out there, I would say that there’s a lot of you that may not raise your hand on that one because recently OSHA has said that not everybody has done a training that's supposed to be done close to a year ago now. That is an easy one what we saw earlier that under the OSHA Top Ten Violations, it was still number one. It was number one for the reasons that because again people don’t do the training, their safety data sheets are not up to date or they haven’t revised their program to reflect the Global Harmonization System. Those of you with laboratories, you got your Chemical Hygiene Plans. Again, it’s more training.
As you can see here, there are a lot of regulations that require training. This is an easy or low-hanging fruit here that an OSHA inspector could find. Really what you want to do is to make sure that you have all of the training that’s required.
Just to go more on preparedness here, how ready are you? How ready are you when an OSHA inspector showed up in your facility? The best way we can tell you to be able to do that is to develop an OSHA compliance calendar. As we all know, the OSHA regulations are quite large. What you want to do is figure out which of the OSHA regulations are applicable or not applicable at your facility. What we guide our clients on and we say, "Let's look at every single OSHA requirement and make a decision whether it is or it is not applicable at this facility. Let's put that all together in a binder, with a calendar, to say when we are going to review each one of those that are required to be reviewed on an annual basis." What this allows you to do is to also have people responsible for it within your company. You may not be responsible for a piece of the program but at least then somebody else is and you’ll know that every January you’re going to look at your Emergency Action Plan, every February you’re going to look at your Hazard Communication Plan and so on. That way there’s a list of timeline that everything will get reviewed and you know when something is due especially with training.
Also, you want to develop that training matrix. In order to do the training matrix, it really comes back to, at least in my opinion, is to have your job hazard or safety analysis because that’s going to tell you what each individual task entails and then what regulations are also connected to that job hazard analysis. I know that job hazard analysis is mainly get around personnel protective equipment but I also use it to say, "Okay, what other regulations are potentially affected by that job?" Is it lock-out tag out or electrical safety, powered industrial trucks, ladder safety or protection? Whatever, it may be. It’s always good to connect the dots with all of that. You want to make sure that all of your written plans are up to date and when do you need them.
Like I mentioned earlier, it is developing that OSHA binder in there. Let’s just say you don’t do welding cutting or bracing in your facility, well I always put a tab in the binder that says welding, cutting and bracing. If it’s not applicable to the facility, we say that it’s not applicable at this time to this facility but will be reviewed on the next cycle. In the OSHA compliance calendar, it says, “Okay in February were going to look to make sure that were not doing welding, cutting and bracing." We take care of that. That way, I know that each one of the written plans are always up to date and we make sure that when you’re reviewing them, you’re also matching up to the regulations. Let’s say that something change in the regulations, you want to make sure that it’s also included in there.
As we said earlier, OSHA's consistently been updating and changing programs. I know, in my opinion, some of them are not updated as quickly as they should be or some of them are still pretty antique but it’s important that your plans are updated as they can be with the regulations. You also would want to make sure that your records are organized and ready for inspection. As we stated earlier, part of your preparedness plan should include where everything is located, are the people still there, and are emergency contact lists up to date. I’ve seen inspectors who take out their cell phones and dial a number that’s on the call-on list and they’re going to make sure that person is on the other line. You don’t want to be standing there and saying, "No, that person is no longer here." I just recently did an inspection where the checklist hasn’t been updated since 2000 and that’s quite old.
You also want to review your OSHA 300 log on a regular basis. I know a lot of people or at least when I speak to a lot of people they say, "That’s and HR function." As safety professionals, you should also be using this because this could be the trigger that brings OSHA into your facility. If you got a lot of injuries or your TRI number increases, anything like that, you would need to know that and what those injuries are. Are they systemic? Were there the same injuries over and over again? That’s going to tell you whether one of your programs is failing. Maybe you need to update your program or review your program and say, "Something is not right here. We need to correct this." You want to conduct your own internal inspections.
Why wait for OSHA to show up? You want to go around and do inspections of your areas. Maybe pick a team of people within your facility, train them on one part of the regulation and have them go around and do inspections. The best part about doing that is usually you have an inspection checklist and there are people that don’t normally do that job. You want to make sure that they can figure out then everybody else can also figure it out. You want to get your employees apply these programs.
OSHA has gone from the days, like when I first started in this world, they would just say, "Great, you have a good OSHA binder on the shelves. You got all the written programs in there. That’s fantastic!" Now, OSHA has gone more performance-based where they go actually into the field and ask, "Does that program really works?" I don’t want to say that they are less concern with the written documents but they want to make sure that the programs actually work and that people are actually doing it. You really want to make sure that your employees are there and part of the process when you write a written program. Make sure that you’re accurate in what you’re saying and that you’re not just saying, "Yes, we do this," then your employees are doing the total opposite of that. You also would want to make sure that you’re enforcing all of your programs. If you have employees out there that are going back to OSHA 300 log, there’s a lot of eye injuries but your company says you have to wear protective eye wear at all times, then there is a problem. OSHA may ask you what kind of disciplinary actions have you taken on the employees for not wearing protective eye wear and you say, "None." That’s not a good presentation of your program and again it’s saying that you say it but you don’t do it.
Very similar, if any of you are out there ISO world, it says plan, do, check, act, I’d like to say the same thing for OSHA in which you’re going to plan, do it and if nothing happens you’re going to act on it. It’s a continuous cycle of making sure that you do everything that you need to do.
Real quick, I want to give you a couple of real-life examples of what we recently have done. One is we did a survey for a client to help them identify any type of compliance issue that they have and to train any employees on what to do when they arrive. We found numerous issues that needed to be addressed and I always say that most issues were found because they didn’t know what they didn’t know. They thought that they have a great OSHA program and they got all of the major things that are needed but as some of you may know new pieces of the regulations that most people may not be aware of. That’s where, some, like ourselves, during inspection can find something like that. You, when you’re doing these internal audits that are really what the purpose of them are. OSHA did come in as one of the consultation services several months later and the facility was found to have no violations in their programs. They were actually commended for what they did as being very pro-active in their stances. It really helped them because they were all ready to go, they were prepared and everybody was happy at the end of the day.
Same thing, we had a higher education client that had an employee complain, which I mentioned earlier, is a very common thing today. We assisted the client in responding to the employee complaint because, if any of you have encountered this, it can be pretty vague in some ways. They don’t always tell you what it is. You’re going to have to try to figure out what they are talking about. It might have been an issue at a specific time of the day and you’re trying to re-enact what was going on at that point. In this case, we went in, looked at what the issues were and helped them correct it. We also trained the staff on what to do and what to say when OSHA comes back on site which included how are they going to walk them in the facility, where to go and what are the repercussions of taking them this way. You also walked through with everybody and again preparedness really opened up their eyes and say, "No, we didn't think of that." Again if you don’t practice and do these things in advance, these things that you’re not going to think about until the actual day that you get that profound knock on the door which really makes everybody's day. When an inspector knocks on your door, you’re saying, "What a great day today is!” Most of us aren’t that way even though we all want to be that way.
I really think that preparedness is the key and to go back and ask yourself, "How ready am I?" Each of us should say, "We're pretty ready." None of you out there can probably say that you’re one hundred per cent compliant with the OSHA regulations. Guess what, any inspector will tell you that too. No companies are one hundred per cent compliant at all times. It’s almost impossible but the better you’re prepared, know where you are and know what your weaknesses are, then that going to help you during an inspection. With that, I believe we can now be open to questions. Is that correct Sasha?
Sasha: Yes, we already have a bunch of questions coming in. Can you hear me okay?
Rick: Yes I can hear you Sasha.
Sasha: Okay. The first question coming in is, "Are there any specific OSHA requirements for a small business?"
Rick: The question is about small businesses. OSHA pertains to everybody. There’s a lot of misconception around that because there is a part on the rules that says ten employees or less. But the 'ten employees or less' is only for certain regulations that says that things don’t have to be in writing. As an example, your emergency action plan clearly states that it does not have to be in writing, it can be verbal. The regulation itself still applies to them. There are a lot of different entities out there to help them, with small businesses, like the consultation service, that’s their number one job, which is to help small-sized companies.
Sasha: Thank you. Next question is, "Is there a list of potential written plan that we should have?" Is there a resource somewhere that would provide them with that information?
Rick: I could answer that a little smartly, which is to say yes, the OSHA regulations list have all of those. I am not aware of any one specific document that’s published by OSHA that list out all of the written requirements. For the written plan ones, I’m only aware that you need to go and dig into them. OSHA does have one that should list out all of the training requirements.
Sasha: Someone wants to know about nuclear plants. What jurisdiction does OSHA have over them?
Rick: Over nuclear plants, that’s a great question! I know the NRC rules first, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission definitely but OSHA is still applicable to them. Unless the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regulations are more astringent, then OSHA would still be applicable. There is no exception.
Sasha: Someone wants to know how common inspections in state universities are.
Rick: That’s always a loaded question because the question becomes, "Is OSHA applicable to state and to this?" And again, it depends on the state that you’re in because certain states have their own OSHA. The regulations are a little different. It really would depend on what state you’re in. It’s not uncommon, but you definitely hear it less in a state institution than you would say in industrial or other types of facility.
Sasha: Another question is commenting on a piece of advice that you gave. They said that one of the pieces of advice that you gave was to monitor employee interviews but in their experience the OSHA inspector has made them leave the room. Is this something that they are allowed to do? Can they insist on staying?
Rick: Yes, they can definitely insist on staying. You have the right at all times unless it was an employee complaint and it was the employee who came forward to say that, “I was the person reported in and I wanted to speak confidentially with the inspector." You have every right; same thing even with your union facility, the shop steward can also be requested to be present during questioning.
Sasha: Next question is, "Can OSHA conclude with a closing conference and then contact them again to hold another one?"
Rick: I just want to make sure Sasha that I heard you correctly on that one. You said if OSHA includes a closing conference and then they can request a second closing conference?
Rick: I’ve never heard of that. The only time I heard something similar to that, I should state, is when OSHA needed to go back and researched something to make sure that it was actually applicable or not. They came back in to review their findings with that company for that specific regulation. I don’t know if that’s necessarily considered as a second closing conference.
Sasha: Next question is, "If you have multiple locations, should a committee and facilitator be present at every site or is one committee, with the ability to travel between sites, sufficient?"
Rick: I would think that one committee would be sufficient but it would depend on how far apart your facilities. If it’s a plane ride to get to another facility, then one committee may not be enough because they may not be able to get there in a reasonable amount of time for the inspector. if they’re local then I would think that yes one committee would be good but the value to having separate or different types of committees is that you could cross train them into each facility so that you can use them to do internal audits as well.
Sasha: Someone wants to know what your recommendations are on how to convince management that there is a need to prepare for OSHA.
Rick: That's always a good one. How do we prepare and get management to buy in. Safety is number one, right? Isn’t that what they all say? It always makes me laugh because it’s hard and that’s really the million-dollar question, as I say. Most times, or at least in my personal experience, to convince a management, is by showing them the value of what a good safety program can bring. What I mean by that is there will be no injuries when your workmen come, payments and once sales numbers start going down, management takes a look at that and says, "Wow! There is a value to this." You share with them what the average cost of an injury is which is well over Twenty Thousand Dollars per day, right? Any of that information can sometimes help with management. It’s just really every manager is different when it comes to that but that’s just some of the tools that I’ve seen used and I personally have used.
Sasha: Great! Good advice. The next question says, “We perform work in well construction and general industry." How do I know when we are in construction or general industry, for example, for our protection? What does OSHA looks at to determine which standard applies?"
Rick: OSHA will look at what task is being performed at that time and they are pretty clear. That’s a great question about general industry versus construction. You have to look at the definitions under the OSHA regulations under construction. Even though they are somewhat vague, not clear in some cases, in other cases it’s pretty straight forward. You have people hanging sheet rocks, say as an example, or up on the roof doing rigging, that’s going to be construction. On the other hand, if there’s somebody up on the roof changing filters, and say an air handler, that’s more of a general industry task. It’s really all task-driven and you’ll have to look at each individual task and read the definitions under both regulations. It’s not uncommon, though, to have companies that are doing both. It constantly happens in this continuous overlap and people never look on the construction standards.
Sasha: Okay, thanks. Let’s go to the next question. You said earlier that there are no exceptions to companies that fall under OSHA, but this person wants to know if there are certain SAC groups that are not included such as Research and Development and Engineering. He said they had an OSHA inspector leave based on this.
Rick: I have never heard of a certain SAC calls not being included under OSHA personally. The only time I’ve ever seen or heard anything is more like somebody working in a home office. That one I have to look back at and I’m not aware of that one especially not in the R&D. There’s definitely no R&D exception.
Sasha: Someone wants to know if they’re responsible for the company who lease a space in their building is OSHA compliant.
Rick: Its always one of those questions. Potentially, it really comes down to that OSHA is going to find somebody. It’s typical with most environmental and safety regulations. Any inspector would want to know that somebody is liable. It really comes down to what your lease says. I don’t want to go through the lease legal terms but if they’re doing work in your facility then you are potentially liable if you allow them to do something. Does your lease say that you are leasing the space but you have zero responsibility on what they do? Then, it will be separate that way. Somebody's going to be responsible and usually it comes down to the legal definition.
Sasha: Someone wants to know if OSHA has the authority to investigate a complaint from a government entity.
Rick: That one I have no experience with. I would have to get back to the group on that one.
Sasha: Okay. Sounds good! Someone wants to know how often small organizations are audited.
Rick: There’s no real number on that. As I stated earlier, OSHA does thousands of inspections a year. To say who gets inspected and when, it’s all based on employee complaints, loss time ratio or how many accidents you’ve had, if there’s death, some type of an enforcement action or it’s just one of the targets under the OSHA requirements. It’s really hard to say how often any type of company or organization is inspected. A lot of it is luck of the draw or unluck of the draw, I should say.
Sasha: Someone wants to know if you have any words of wisdom in regard to contractor's safety policy and OSHA compliance.
Rick: Yes, Three Eight one. Contractor Safety Program is probably the biggest headache that most companies faced. If you look in the OSHA regulations, it does specifically states that you need to have a Contractor Safety Plan or Program. It states that you are supposed to relay all of the known hazards to those contractors.
What I always say on that is if you develop a written Contractor Safety Program which details out all your facility safety requirements, what is expected of them, and prove that they’ve actually had the trainings on whatever it is that they’re doing, say its permanent-based compliance entry. They actually have to prove to you that they’ve had training and a copy of their written program and all of that. That’s going to help you to feel better about what they are doing. If God forbids, something does happen at your site, you can say to yourself that you at least did your diligence and that maybe it was just a true accident.
Sasha: We are starting to run out of time, so I’m only going to take two or three more questions, just so everybody knows that we are going to end the Q&A. We will send a transcribed copy of the webinar and we'll try to answer all of the questions that haven’t been answered yet in that transcribed copy. Your questions will get answers. We have two more questions to answer on the webinar. Have you heard of OSHA issuing a citation for a company not meeting the new voluntary PELs (Permissible Exposure Limits) for hazardous chemicals?
Rick: None yet that I’m aware of.
Sasha: That’s a quick answer. Maybe we can do four questions.
Rick: Yes, that was pretty straight forward.
Sasha: Someone wants to know if quality OSHA compliance can lower company insurance rates?
Rick: I have heard that. Yes but you would have to check with your insurance company because some insurance companies do offer discounts for voluntary compliance such as the Shop Program, the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) or anything like that. A lot of the insurance companies will give you that information and give you that deduction in your rates based on that.
Sasha: Someone wants to know if the union representative has to be invited to the opening conference? When they invite themselves can we ask them to leave?
Rick: That would be part of your contract with the union in that state. I’ve seen it go both ways where the union will be involved with all operations or safety programs within the facility. If it’s not going to involve the employee interviews then they may not need to be in the opening conference. It really goes back to what is your agreement to your secular union state.
Sasha: Thank you. It looks like we're out of time. Thank you for all your questions. We'll be concluding the webinar now. We'll send you an email with the copy of the presentation along with the recording some time later today. The e-mail will also have a link to a survey asking you to rate this webinar. If you could please fill it out that could be very helpful to the team at Triumvirate. We have several upcoming webinars including one on how to minimize your waste for industrial organization, waste stream analysis for healthcare institutions and preventing liability with lab decommissioning. You can find these webinars on the event's page at www.triumvirate.com/training/events. Also, for those of you in New York, Rick will be speaking there on December 10. We'll send you an e-mail sometime later this week. It’s going to be a more in-depth OSHA inspection preparation round table. We'd love to have you all there. Thanks again for attending and we hope to see you next time. Goodbye!