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What to expect from an OSHA visit

February 28, 2012
by Steve Wilder
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It’s looking like a good Monday. No call-offs. No complaints. No weekend catastrophes. Coffee is made when you get in to office. The world is a great place.

Then he walks in.

“Good afternoon, Mr./Mrs. Administrator. I am a Compliance Officer with the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. We are here to conduct a review of your employee health and safety program.”

Until recently, OSHA was more of an ally to business than an enforcement arm. It would welcome calls, provide training and offer consultation services. Sadly, as someone recently stated, “It’s not your daddy’s OSHA anymore.”

Now, OSHA has gone back to the days of old, and it is no longer seen as an ally to business. So when the compliance officer walks into your long-term care facility, what should you expect?

First, don’t panic. Be polite and respectful; remember this is an official visit, and not a social visit. Ask to see his credentials as well as a photo ID. Determine the purpose of the visit by asking what triggered the investigation.

The OSHA visit will be broken down into several areas:

Opening conference. Here, the compliance officer(s) will introduce themselves to your staff and set the stage for what is to follow.

Document review. The compliance officer will ask to see a number of documents, depending on what prompted the investigation. These may include:

●  Safety policies and procedures

●  OSHA 300 logs for past three years

●  Specific injury reports or accident investigations

●  Employee training records

●  MSDS for any hazardous materials in the facility

●  Written plans, such as Bloodborne Pathogens and Exposure Control Plan or “proof” that safety rules and regulations are enforced (documentation for some type of corrective action for employee safety violations)

●  Other documents, specific to the cause of the visit

Site tour. This may be an all-inclusive tour or focused, depending on the reason for the inspection.

Employee interviews. These one-on-one meetings between employee and compliance officer are done privately—nobody else is usually allowed in the room. Employee anonymity is guaranteed, and employees have legal protection from reprisals or disciplinary action for being honest.

These visits can be nerve-racking experiences and are something nobody wants to go through, yet most providers will experience at least one. An OSHA compliance officer, who is also a good friend, told me some time ago that when he is interviewing the employer, he asks an open-ended question and then sits in silence while they nervously babble on and on. The employer often perceives this silence as a clue that they aren’t saying the “right thing,” so they just keep yakking! Truth is, he is listening to see if they are going to hang themselves.

Just remember the old adage: ”If they ask you the time, tell them the time; don’t tell them how to build a watch.”

Pay attention to your safety program, make sure you are doing what is required of you and keep your documentation up to date. You can’t be over-prepared for an OSHA visit.

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Comments

I have had the fortune of have a couple of wall to wall OSHA inspections when I was running a plant. Not anything I want to repeat.

Steve Wilder

Steve Wilder

@SorensenWilder

www.swa4safety.com/

Steve Wilder, CHSP, STS, is president and chief operating officer of...