Like any business owner, you want to provide a safe work environment for your employees. But accidents, injuries, and even deaths can happen. And when those tragic things happen, agencies like OSHA can get involved, adding even more scrutiny and stress to an already tense situation.
But keep in mind, OSHA has the same goals as you – to make sure your employees have a safe work environment. So you don’t want an adversarial relationship with them, and having a plan in place to handle an inspection before it happens can make things easier for everyone when it does.
If an OSHA inspector shows up at your business tomorrow, will you have a plan in place to smoothly handle the situation?
Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have such a plan. Here are some essential do’s and don’ts for dealing with an OSHA inspection.
- Be caught unorganized and unprepared. Have a plan in place ahead of time, one that includes selecting a company rep to escort the inspector and an employee representative. You also need to provide a meeting space for opening and closing conferences.
- Be rude. Yes, the inspection process is an inconvenience for everyone involved, and it can mean making some workplace modifications or even paying penalties. But taking an adversarial stance toward the inspector and the inspection process can only make things more difficult for you. Keep your cool.
- Fail to keep good records. It’s almost a given you’ll be asked to produce records, documents, injury and illness logs, etc. If you can’t produce them, the process will get complicated very quickly, and incomplete or missing records can only lead to suspicion and more scrutiny.
- Avoid questions or give false information. Don’t take a head-in-the-sand mentality and answer every question with “I don’t know” for fear of saying something wrong. Instead, tell the inspector you’ll get the answer for them or find someone more knowledgeable. And lying or instructing your employees to lie to an inspector is always bad advice, because when your lies are uncovered, they’ll come back to bite you in the bottom line.
- Try to bribe the inspector. This should be obvious, but it’s not a good idea to try to slip the inspector money, offer to buy him or her lunch, or do anything else that could be construed as bribery.
- Be nice. Being cooperative and professional will go a long way for your case and the inspector’s attitude toward your business.
- Verify the identity of the OSHA inspector. Carefully check the inspector’s ID and call the local OSHA office to verify.
- Have complete and easily accessible records. This will make the process go much more smoothly and show the inspector that you take safety seriously.
- Take photos, videos, and notes. The inspector will no doubt be snapping photos and/or taking video and notes, and you should do the same to have the same record of events.
- Assert and protect your rights. You have certain rights in the inspection process. You’re allowed to restrict the inspector’s admittance until management personnel are on site, and you have the right to refuse to allow an inspection without a search warrant. You also have the right to determine the reason for the inspection, obtain a copy of the complaint, be present at interviews with management employees, and protect any company trade secrets.
OSHA inspections may not be a business owner’s favorite thing to contend with, but having a game plan for dealing with the process before it happens can save you unnecessary stress and costs.
For more information about OSHA inspections, see OSHA’s Fact Sheet. And for the best in safety and risk management advice, contact the professionals at BNC Agency.