Noncompliance with OSHA regulations can cost employers a lot of money. The good news is that complying does not have to be cumbersome or expensive. These procedures and attitudes can help a company keep its name out of an OSHA news release.
An OSHA inspector’s primary task during an inspection is to find non-compliance issues. If the inspector doesn’t find any, he or she won’t issue a citation.
If violations are found, the officer can choose to expand the scope of the inspection. Therefore, it is paramount that employers identify the requirements that apply to their workplaces.
Also, stay abreast of regulatory changes. Being compliant now doesn’t mean a company will always be compliant. Regulations and policies change, and new ones are issued.
OSHA has increased rulemaking activity by issuing several proposed and final rules over the last four years. The most recent final rule of significance was the Walking-Working Surfaces rule, which includes major fall protection, training, and inspection changes affecting every employer.
These five tips will get you on the right path when looking to avoid OSHA penalties:
1. Improve record keeping
Good documentation is an employer’s first defense against an OSHA inquiry. Information gaps in the OSHA 300 log (the record of work-related injuries and illnesses) may prompt inspectors to conduct comprehensive safety audits of businesses. Filling in missing information for the past three to five years can save your business a lot of grief and expense. Check personnel files and workers’ compensation loss records for details of accidents.
2. Focus on ergonomics
Preventing repetitive motion disorders can help businesses avoid citations and penalties. It also reduces workers’ compensation insurance premiums in the long run. Analyze how workers are performing their tasks and look for ways to reduce the strain on their joints, necks and backs.
3. Fix the routine violations first
Some safety issues are simple and cost little or nothing to correct. For example:
• Blocked exits
• Lack of protective equipment, such as gloves and safety goggles
• Poor housekeeping
• Improper storage of materials such as flammable liquids These problems can accumulate over time. OSHA has penalized businesses with large numbers of violations like these, so it pays to monitor and correct them.
4. Hazard assessment
Conducting routine hazard assessments is an excellent way to find hazards in the workplace before OSHA does. Focus on the “Big Four”: Falls, electrocutions, caught-in or between, and struck by.
OSHA is placing increased focus on these hazards, which are the leading causes of fatalities. In the past, OSHA focused on these hazards only in the construction industry, but now the agency is targeting these four hazards in general industry, as well.
If an OSHA compliance officer finds that an employer has an otherwise good safety and health program, the officer will focus mainly on these four hazard areas.
5. Safety and health program
If not done already, establish a written injury and illness prevention program that outlines the hazards in the facility and how they are controlled.
This is another way to “find and fix” hazards before OSHA finds them. It is also an eligibility requirement for receiving the “good faith” penalty reduction if cited by OSHA.