by Kristen Hampshire
OH, NO. IT’S OSHA. ARE YOU PREPARED FOR A VISIT FROM A
COMPLIANCE OFFICER? READ THIS PRIMER TO GET READY FOR THAT
KNOCK ON THE DOOR.
There’s a knock at the door. You’re about to greet the guest with a “C’mon in!” before you realize who is standing in front of you. It’s not
the prospect you pitched new business to
last week. It’s not a vendor with an earlier
delivery of supplies. It’s not a friend.
Don’t expect an advanced phone call
or notice from an Occupational Safety &
Health Administration (OSHA) compliance officer. An audit is initiated without
warning—the point, after all, is to review the
safety processes and procedures your business has in place, and to ensure that there are
no workplace hazards that could cause harm.
It can be your worst business nightmare
if you aren’t prepared.
“OSHA compliance officers are well-trained, and they want to be fair and do
their job—they are looking to be sure your
workplace is safe,” says Robin Medlock of
Safety Controls Technology, a full-service
occupational safety and health consulting firm and COSE Preferred Partner.
Medlock spent 20 years serving OSHA as
the Cleveland area director before joining Safety Controls Technology. Now one
of his jobs is to help businesses like yours
prepare for OSHA audits.
“When OSHA comes knocking, you
should feel like your business is in good
shape,” Medlock says. “OSHA is fair. They
want you to be in compliance. They want
to go to another business that is not O.K.
because their job is to identify violations and
penalties at companies that are not in shape.”
The kicker: If your workplace is home
to any identified hazards, those violations
could have a price tag of up to $7,000.
Medlock says the average OSHA violation
costs business owners $2,500. “Penalties
are tough, and they have gotten tougher,”
You can’t ignore OSHA’s knock at the
door, but you can prepare your business
and mitigate occupational safety and
health risks so you don’t rack up violation
fines during an audit. And through the
COSE Workers’ Compensation Safety Plus
program, your business gains access to 15
hours of free consultative safety services
each year from Safety Controls Technology.
“You can’t stop OSHA from showing up
at your door, and you can’t tell them they
aren’t allowed to do an inspection of your
site; but you can be prepared and know
how to react when they do arrive,” says
Maria Mastrandrea, workers’ compensation
account manager at COSE.
So what will you say and do when
OSHA pays you a visit? Medlock provides
this primer to help you understand the
process and best prepare.
WHY ME? Don’t blame the OSHA visit
on bad luck. OSHA doesn’t generally stop
by places of business on a whim. There’s a
reason for the audit, and if you’re wondering how they found your business, look
within. “Most inspections are done when
OSHA gets a complaint from an employee
or other source,” Medlock says.
Perhaps an employee is disgruntled.
Maybe a worker feels unsafe and isn’t
comfortable talking about the situation
with a manager. “Employees, many times,
will call the OSHA office because they are
afraid to report a hazard because they don’t
want to raise the red flag for fear of getting
in trouble,” Medlock says.
This problem can be solved by starting
a safety committee of individuals in the
company that can serve as ambassadors. If
an employee sees or experiences an unsafe
situation, he or she can report that to the
committee and be assured anonymity. A
safety committee also wins points when
OSHA comes knocking, Medlock adds.