Recently OSHA Compliance Officers in two different Area Offices specifically requested digital copies of employers’ “Safety Program” instead of written copies. The employers understandably wondered why the Compliance Officers expressly wanted digital copies. An obvious concern was that the Compliance Officers wanted to expand the scope and to more easily be able to review the entire safety program, perhaps in anticipation of the eventual implementation of I2P2.
Various Area Offices advised that they were unaware of any push by OSHA to obtain digital copies of safety programs either to protect the environment or in order to “troll” through the safety programs. Providing digital copies of safety programs to OSHA is probably not a good idea. First and most importantly OSHA Area Offices have limited facilities, and you really do not want to irritate a Compliance Office by requiring him to print 100 pages on a slow printer. Moreover, for various legal reasons, many of which have nothing to do with OSHA, employers generally should utilize PDF copies.
· What if my “safety program” isn’t in one place? It’s integrated into various processes.
The inquiry raised other important questions. Some employers are increasingly incorporating their “safety procedures” into all aspects of their operations and processes, from bidding to purchase to production. If one does not know that, an observer might be surprised or concerned about certain policies not being in the designated “safety policy.” As employers integrate safety into all of their policies and procedures, they need to also ensure that they can explain to OSHA or interested customers where “safety policies” exist in writing.
· What about I2P2?
While I doubt that these requests had anything to do with preparation for I2P2, we do know that the current administration is serious about implementing I2P2, and is increasingly looking at an employers’ entire safety processes as part of the SVEP process or where no vertical OSHA standard clearly fits a situation. Some employers maintain broad corporate safety policies, but do not prepare job site or machine-specific procedures. Some safety programs neglect contractors and temporary employees. Some safety programs bear almost no resemblance with life on the work floor.
We will talk more about these subjects in the future, and I would appreciate any observations or observations about effective safety programs and integrating safety into all processes.
I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues.
Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession.
I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors.
I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values.
Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral.
As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
I’ve been in manufacturing for almost forty years and my belief has always been that when faced with a request from an arm of the government you should provide only as much information as required by statute. I would extend that to the form of the submission. Providing a digital copy of any policy, procedure or program only makes fishing easier for government agents or officers who are trolling for unreported problems. If they want to look through my documentation, they are welcome, but it will be within the confines of existing statutes and the old fashioned way–by hand, reading one page at a time without the benefit of a “search” function. My answer if asked for a digital copy would be, “I don’t have one”.