Do You Really Know How To Manage an OSHA Inspection?

From my friends at SafetyBLR.com:

August 30, 2013

By Howard Mavity, partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLP

Many articles on handling OSHA inspections provide the same basic guidelines and little explanation of why an employer should take certain steps. Readers already know to take photos whenever the compliance officer takes shots and to take notes, but do you know why to take those photos and what to look for? What do you need to note in order to challenge citations when they are issued 6 months later?

Plan in advance

Every company site should have a number of managers who know the basic steps to take whenever any government investigator shows up. The most important step is for site managers to know whom to call to obtain guidance. No executive or in-house counsel will be pleased to learn of an investigation upon receipt of a citation. I have handled nearly 500 fatality and catastrophic cases and have learned that no matter how tough someone may be, people shut down when a coworker or subordinate is killed. At most, site management can cope with evacuating and protecting employees and dealing with first responders. The company needs a system in place so that with one call, the site manager activates corporate support, including legal and risk management guidance, assistance to employees and families, and press and media management. Set up this system and practice responses. Do not assume that you will never face a fatality or catastrophe. Natural disasters, vehicular accidents, and workplace violence can strike any employer.

Make sure that management takes an OSHA inspection seriously. Many employers are unprepared for the aggressive approach now common, and even seemingly minor citations can harm the business. In some industries, even a single serious citation can harm bidding opportunities. Most six-figure citations have involved repeat violations of routine items such as missing electric cabinet switch labels, damaged extension cords, partially blocked electric cabinets, or one employee who missed his annual training. Each violation can serve as the basis for a repeat violation of up to $70,000 per item at any company location in any state under federal OSHA jurisdiction for 5 years. No inspection is minor. And furthermore, OSHA’s new information technology system will allow it to better track your corporation’s performance, even when the company operates under many names.

Manage the inspection

The first step is to determine why OSHA is present. Many inspections are triggered by a complaint, and OSHA must tell you the terms. (Continue Reading at SafetyBLR.com)

About mavity2012

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
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