10 tips for surviving an OSHA audit

From Billboard’s Hot 100 to the Ten Most Dangerous Hackers, people love lists. Some lists are an honor to be part of. Case in point, Texas Mutual was thrilled to be named a 2016 Wards 50 Top-Performing P&C Carrier. And then there are lists you want no part of. Case in point, OSHA’s list of top 10 violations.

This summer, OSHA increased its fee structure by 80 percent. That means if an inspector catches you violating standards, it could cost you up to $124,709 per violation.

OSHA’s new fee structure
Type of violation Previous maximum penalty New maximum penalty
Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation $12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $70,000 per violation $124,709 per violation

Now, most employers will never cross OSHA’s radar. The agency only employs one inspector for every 59,000 job sites. But what if OSHA does come knocking?

In the spirit of our affinity for lists, here are 10 tips for surviving an OSHA inspection.

Report injuries and illnesses

OSHA requires employers to record and report all fatalities, as well as certain injuries and illness. Starting in 2017, OSHA will require many employers to submit injury and illness records electronically. You can avoid costly fines by complying with recording and recordkeeping requirements.

Know what triggers an inspection

OSHA conducts programmed and unprogrammed inspections. Programmed inspections are planned. They focus on high-hazard companies and industries. Unplanned factors, including fatalities, severe injuries and employee complaints, trigger unprogrammed inspections.

Understand the inspection process

OSHA inspections follow a strict process, starting with the inspector presenting his or her credentials. From there, the inspector explains the purpose of the visit during the opening conference. The inspector will then walk the job site looking for hazards. The process wraps up with the closing conference, where you learn about any violations the inspector found.

Create an I2P2

A written injury and illness prevention program, known in OSHA-speak as an I2P2, provides a road map for sending employees home injury-free. The plan identifies the hazards employees are exposed to, explains how the company will protect employees and assigns accountability within the program.

Keep accurate records

Accurate records are a critical component of any successful safety program. They’re also a key part of OSHA inspections. During the opening conference, you will present your written I2P2, safety training records, medical surveillance records and OSHA logs. The inspector will also ask for applicable OSHA-required programs, such as hazard communication, hearing conservation, forklift safety and confined spaces. For sample programs, visit OSHA and the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) online.

Don’t fall victim to scams

OSHA requires its inspectors to present their credentials before entering any workplace. There have been reports of people posing as inspectors and issuing fake citations or coercing employers into buying products or services to avoid violations. An OSHA inspector will never ask for immediate payment for a citation. You can verify an inspector’s credentials by calling the nearest OSHA area office.

Don’t interfere with the inspection

Sometimes, an employer allows the inspector to enter but interferes with or limits an important aspect of the inspection, such as the walk-through or employee interviews. Remember that interference could result in legal action.

Apply for variances

You might qualify for a compliance exception, or variance, to an OSHA standard. For example, some employers may not be able to comply fully and on time with a new safety or health standard because of a shortage of personnel, materials or equipment.

Get compliance assistance

If you’ve tried to navigate OSHA’s standards, you know it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Fortunately, you’re not on your own. Take advantage of these free OSHO-sponsored compliance assistance programs:

  • OSHCON – OSHA partners with TDI to offer the Occupational Safety and Health Consultation (OSHCON) program. The program is a non-regulatory service that helps employers identify and correct violations without getting fined.
  • VPP – Qualifying employers can enroll in OSHA’s voluntary protection program (VPP). Participating employers are exempt from programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

Visit Work Safe, Texas

Maintaining a safe workplace is the best way to stay off OSHA’s radar, and Texas Mutual is here to help. We refresh worksafetexas.com each month with relevant, free resources. We encourage every employer to leverage the resources and make safety a value in their organization.

Regulatory Roundup, December 18, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of workplace safety and wellness news.

Texas Mutual News

Lessons from the field: It’s getting crowded in here
With the holiday shopping frenzy in full swing, OSHA reminds retailers to implement a crowd management plan…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Tight delivery deadlines drive risky behaviors among long-haul truckers
Semi TruckA new NIOSH survey reveals that 73 percent of long-haul truck drivers perceive their delivery deadlines as unrealistically tight, which may be an incentive for risky driving behaviors such as speeding, hours-of-service violations, and continuing to drive despite fatigue, bad weather or heavy traffic…MORE

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Study highlights health risks associated with prolonged standing
Prolonged standing at work contributes to lower back and leg pain, cardiovascular problems, fatigue, discomfort and pregnancy-related health outcomes, according to an NIH study. Employers can protect employees by providing floor mats, sit-stand workstations/chairs, shoe inserts and hosiery or stockings…MORE

Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

Senate committee passes federal pipeline safety reauthorization bill
The bill reauthorizes the PHMSA through fiscal year 2019. One amendment to the bill requires the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct a review of states’ gas leak policies. Another requires the PHMSA’s administrator to provide un-redacted oil spill response plans if requested by three key congressional committees…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA, DOJ to hold managers criminally accountable for safety violations
A Philadelphia employer faces up to 25 years in prison after one of his employees fell 45 feet to his death while repairing a roof. The case represents a rare criminal conviction that may become more common under an agreement between OSHA and the Department of Justice…MORE

OSHA issues letter of interpretation on import/export labels for HCS
In the letter of interpretation, OSHA defines a container as any bag, barrel, bottle, box, can, cylinder, drum, reaction vessel, storage tank or the like that contains a hazardous chemical…MORE

15 years in the making, silica rule to debut February 2016
The rule lowers the permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air calculated as an eight-hour time-weighted average, down from about 100 micrograms for general industry and 250 micrograms for construction and shipyards…MORE

OSHA to focus on complex inspections in 2016
OSHA employs a mere one inspector for every 3,500 workplaces. To get the most out of its limited resources, OSHA will focus on complex inspections in 2016…MORE

Draft injury and illness prevention document targets temp workers
Newly released draft guidance from an OSHA advisory committee recommends staffing firms and host employers implement a safety and health program describing their shared responsibility for protecting temporary workers…MORE

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

FCC schedules second tower-safety workshop
In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recorded two cell tower worker deaths. In 2013, that number jumped to 13, and it grew again in 2014 to 14 deaths. To reverse the trend, the FCC will host a safety workshop on Feb. 11, 2016…MORE

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

NTSB oversize load safety alert cites Salado, Texas crash
Risk Sign
In March 2015, a truck carrying an oversize load on Interstate 35 in Salado struck the concrete bridge beams of an overhead highway bridge, causing the beams to fall into the travel lanes. Citing the Salado accident, the NTSB issued a safety alert reminding carriers to get permits for oversize loads…MORE

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

BLS charts illustrate 2014 nonfatal injuries
The charts show the incidence rates and median days away from work broken down by occupation, as well as the causes of injuries and illnesses most commonly suffered by workers in specific occupations…MORE

Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA)

With holiday distractions plentiful, MSHA reminds miners to focus on the job to avoid injuries
From preparing for out-of-town guests to buying last-minute gifts, the holidays can consume our time, energy and attention. MSHA reminds miners that losing focus, even for a split-second, can yield deadly consequences on the job…MORE

Studies, news, resources

Wearable does the heavy lifting to prevent back strains
The device’s sensors detect workers’ movements and provide real-time feedback when they perform potentially high-risk activities…MORE

New device alerts drowsy drivers
The device is a Bluetooth headset that detects blinks and head nods, and then transmits the data to a smartphone. If drowsiness is detected, the headset alerts the driver…MORE

Walk this way: Study highlights risks of distracted walking
Distracted walkers veer off course by as much as 61 percent while texting and walking, according to a new study. Digitally distracted walkers are at risk of being hit by a vehicle, falling down stairs, tripping over a curb, walking into a glass door or falling into a fountain or swimming pool…MORE

The A,B,C’s of OSHA’s New Hazard Communication Standard

The federal government believes every American has the right to a safe workplace. In 1970, Congress created an agency charged with protecting that right: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA is one of many agencies working to protect workers from the on-the-job injuries. Others include the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Chemical Safety Board.

In this occasional series, we will spotlight regulatory initiatives and explain in layman’s terms how they affect you. Our first installment focuses on OSHA’s revised hazard communication standard.

Key terms

Hazard communication standard (HCS) – OSHA implemented the HCS to help protect workers from the hazards associated with certain chemicals. The HCS requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and to communicate those hazards to consumers.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) – The GHS is an internationally agreed-upon system for classifying and labeling hazardous chemicals. It is designed to replace the various classification and labeling standards used in different countries by using consistent criteria for classification and labeling on a global level.

Labels – Labels are informational elements concerning a hazardous chemical. They are affixed to, printed on or attached to the hazardous chemical container or its packaging. A label must explain why a chemical is hazardous and recommend preventive measures. A label must also include pictograms.

Pictograms represent the hazards associated with chemicals.

Pictograms represent the hazards associated chemicals.

Pictograms – Pictograms are graphic symbols used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical.

Safety data sheets (SDS) – An SDS is similar to a label, but it is more comprehensive. Workers should consult the SDS for information on the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical. Under the previous hazard communication standard, safety data sheets were called material safety data sheets.

Why revise the HCS?

The old HCS allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to communicate information on labels and safety data sheets in a format they chose. The revised HCS provides a standardized approach to classifying the hazards and communicating the information. OSHA feels the revised HCS will better protect workers, particularly when they encounter chemicals produced in other countries.

What changed?

This chart provides a side-by-side comparison of the old HCS and the revised HCS. Major changes include:

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
  • Hazard class number: Under the previous HCS, 0 represented the least-hazardous class, and 4 represented the most-hazardous. Under the revised HCS, 1 is the most-hazardous class, and 5 is the least- hazardous.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
  • Safety Data Sheets: Now have a specified 16-section format.
  • Information and training: Employers were required to train workers by December 1, 2013, on the new label elements and safety data sheet format.

When will the revised HCS be effective?

Chemical manufacturers have until Dec. 1, 2015, to comply with all components of the revised HCS. However, some have already begun shipping products that meet the new requirements.

Effective Completion Date Requirement(s) Who?
December 1, 2013 Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format. Employers
June 1, 2015 Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:

The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label – Effective December 1, 2015

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers
June 1, 2016 Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. Employers
Transition period to the effective completion dates noted above May comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (the final standard), or the current standard, or both. Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers

What are employers’ training obligations?

OSHA required employers to train their employees on the new label elements and SDS format by Dec. 1, 2013. Texas Mutual recommends employers document all employee training. For more information about your training requirements, click here.

Need help?

This chart provides key implementation dates employers need to know about.

About subject matter expert Al Capps
Texas Mutual safety services consultant Al Capps contributed to this blog post. Al is a professional engineer who previously served as an industrial hygienist for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In that role, he conducted health and safety investigations, including air, noise and heat monitoring, as well as safety hazard recognition. Prior to joining OSHA, Al worked in the water quality division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where he conducted audits of municipal pretreatment programs, wastewater plan reviews and community outreach. As a Texas Mutual safety services consultant, Al partners with Central Texas employers to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. Al earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas.

6 Things You Need to Know about OSHA’s Revised Reporting Rule

By Al Capps, Safety Services Consultant

By Al Capps, Safety Services Consultant

In September 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its injury reporting rule. Here are six things you need to know about the rule:

1. The effective date is Jan. 1, 2015.

2. The revised rule applies to all employers under OSHA jurisdiction, even employers who are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA records due to company size or industry (see number 5 below).

3. The revised rule expands the list of injuries that employers must report to OSHA.

Current rule:

– All work-related fatalities

– All work-related hospitalizations of three or more employees

Revised rule:

– All work-related fatalities

– All work-related in-patient hospitalizations of one or more employees

– All work-related amputations

– All work-related losses of an eye

Employers must report work-related fatalities within 8 hours of finding out about it.

For any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or eye loss, employers must report the incident within 24 hours of learning about it.

Only fatalities occurring within 30 days of the work-related incident must be reported to OSHA. Further, for an inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye, incidents must be reported to OSHA only if they occur within 24 hours of the work-related incident. For a definition of in-patient hospitalization, see page 56 at https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/NAICSReporting.pdf.

4. Employers can report injuries to OSHA two ways:

  • Call OSHA’s 24-hour hotline at (800) 321-OSHA (6742).
  • Call the closest OSHA area office during normal business hours.

5. The revised rule also updates the list of industries that are exempt from the requirement to routinely keep OSHA injury and illness records due to relatively low occupational injury and illness rates.
For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/records.html.

6. More information about the new rule is available at https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/reporting.html.

About the author
Al Capps is a professional engineer who previously served as an industrial hygienist for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In that role, he conducted health and safety investigations, including air, noise and heat monitoring, as well as safety hazard recognition. Prior to joining OSHA, Al worked in the water quality division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where he conducted audits of municipal pretreatment programs, wastewater plan reviews and community outreach. As a Texas Mutual safety services consultant, Al partners with Central Texas employers to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. Al is a professional engineer who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas.

Stand Down for Safety – But Then What?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

I’m not a numbers guy, so I typically avoid them in my posts. I’m going to make a rare exception, but I assure it’s for a worthy cause.

In 2012, 775 construction workers died on the job. Nearly 270 of those deaths involved falls. Coincidentally, fall prevention safety standards were among the 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards that year. See where I’m going?

It seems that at least some – around 30 percent – of those 775 fatalities were preventable.

That’s the message the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is communicating during National Safety Stand-Down Week.

A safety stand-down is an opportunity for employers and employees to pause during their busy day and discuss safety. Safety stand-downs are not unique to the construction industry. In fact, the oil and gas industry has seen using them as part of its strategy for controlling its fatality rates, which are seven times higher than other industries.

A short visit to the safety stand-down website yields a long list of free information. You’ll find tips for a successful stand-down at your business, stand-down events in your state, certificates of completion and training materials in multiple languages.

A national effort of this magnitude requires high-profile industry buy-in. OSHA certainly did the legwork to garner support. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, American Society of Safety Engineers, Center for Construction Research and Training, and National Safety Council are among the reputable agencies lending their names to the cause.

As a new safety and health professional, I don’t have nearly as much “skin in the game” as these esteemed organizations. Still, it’s exciting to see so many great safety minds collaborating around a serious issue.

It occurred to me, however, that the campaign’s call to action is not all that novel or revolutionary. In fact, it’s something you should be doing every day, whether your employees work on a construction site, an oil field or in the relatively safe confines of an office.

OSHA explains that a stand-down could be as simple as a 15-minute toolbox talk or several hours of training during the week. Of course, any investment in safety is time and money well-spent. But what if you set the bar higher?

What if you made safety part of your employee orientation process? What if you held regularly scheduled safety meetings? Better still, what if management not only attended those meetings but also participated? And what if your employees, without compromise, did every job the safest way, even if it wasn’t the fastest way?

When safety matures to that level, it is engrained in your company culture. It is more than a mantra you rally around for a week before going back to business as usual. It is a value that never gets compromised. And that is the foundation that solid workplace safety programs are built on.

I applaud OSHA for conceiving and promoting National Safety Stand-Down Week. At the very least, it is an opportunity for employers and employees to start a dialogue about preventing workplace accidents. But I encourage you to think about what happens next. How will you carry the conversation forward and make safety a core business process?

Labor Secretary Tom Perez encourages employers to plan, provide and train their way to fewer fall injuries.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Want to Reap the Benefits of Workplace Safety?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Get a group of workplace safety advocates from diverse industries together, and you’ll get a variety of perspectives. But they will agree on one thing: Management commitment drives safety.

Some companies demonstrate support from the top by investing in training and personal protective equipment.

Others go leaps and bounds farther by requiring management to follow the same safety procedures as front-line employees follow.

Goodwill Industries is one of a rare few employers that punctuates its commitment to safety by making an example of the person on top of the org chart.

“Last year, our safety coordinator required all employees to take CPR,” said Cathy Rudzinski, vice president and chief financial officer of Goodwill Industries. “Anyone who did not get the training by the deadline would be written up.”

See where this is going? The deadline came and went, and Goodwill CEO Jerry Davis was among a handful of employees who had not complied.

“To Jerry’s credit, he was the first to step up, admit his mistake and accept the consequences,” said Rudzinski.

Those consequences included a mark on Davis’ permanent Goodwill file. Worse yet, he had to report his oversight to Goodwill’s chairman of the board.

“That really put teeth in our safety program,” laughed Cathy. “When your safety coordinator can write up the CEO, employees know that nobody is immune. They understand that safety is a value that never gets compromised by anyone.”

Rudzinski recently shared Davis’ story during a panel discussion titled “The ROI of Safety in the Workplace.” The free event was a joint production between Texas Mutual and the Austin Business Journal. Attendees got tips from peers who have overcome the hurdles of making safety a core business process.

Click here for the full story. And don’t miss our panelists’ top tips for cashing in on the benefits of preventing workplace accidents.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

An Editor Digs a Little Deeper Into Workplace Safety

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Marketing-types love clichés. They lure us with promises of synergistic partnerships and turnkey solutions that produce win-win results. Too often, they leave us scratching our heads and looking for the “value proposition” in their pitches.

I admit that I’m guilty of generic statements when it comes to workplace safety. I dig just enough to scratch the surface of a topic, and then I give you bite-sized information I hope you can start using immediately in your business.

In case you’ve never read my posts, here’s sample of my offerings: Safety starts with management commitment, but employee involvement drives continuous improvement. And let’s not forget that workplace safety programs contribute to increased productivity, lower workers’ comp costs and improved employee morale.

The fact that I have traditionally written about safety at a high level was actually okay. After all, I’m a writer, not a safety professional. That changed recently.

After 13 years in Texas Mutual’s corporate communications department, I accepted a new challenge. I am now the senior technical writer for our safety services team. With the new title came, at least in my mind, new expectations.

One of the first things I did to prepare for my new job was read a white paper, “Injury and Illness Prevention Programs,” written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The thought of reading a white paper scared me a little. They’re typically long documents loaded with jargon and hundreds of references to other studies on the topic. But this white paper is a manageable 18 pages, and the language is easy enough for a layman to get their head around. For a mere 30-minute investment, I came away with a handful of key points I want to share with you:

  • Management commitment drives workplace safety.
  • Employee involvement is critical to the safety program’s long-term success.
  • Workplace safety programs reduce employers’ operating costs, increase productivity and improve employee morale.

It seems the core concepts of workplace safety are timeless. Any company in any industry can use them to make safety a permanent part of their company culture. It’s comforting to know that while the experts at OSHA know much more than I’ll ever know about safety, they chose to share this handful of basics in a white paper.

So as senior technical writer, I will continue promoting the building blocks of a solid safety program and the benefits of preventing accidents. But I will also provide insight on specific safety issues relevant to Texas industries. In short, I will dig just a little deeper.

This OSHA video features employers explaining the benefits of adopting an injury and illness prevention program (I2P2).

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

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