|How To Prepare Your Company for OSHA
Many believe that an increase in inspections is doubtful, particularly with
the Bush administration in its second term. However, recent enforcement
actions confirm that EPA and OSHA are hitting regulated entities that do not
avail themselves of compliance assistance programs the agencies offer. And
as more regulated areas of focus arise, the possibility of an inspection
may, indeed, increase. In addition, the need to increase agency revenues
because of budget cutbacks will play big in increasing inspections.
Because EPA claims its objective is to reduce pollution, the Agency is
spending more time in developing cooperative programs to promote voluntary
compliance above and beyond federal requirements. EPA is concentrating on
compliance assistance programs in cooperation with state and local
authorities. EPA strongly encourages regulated facilities to attend a
program or workshop applicable to the facilities' situation.
The Agency recently began cracking down on stormwater violations, and
smaller companies were included on this hit list. According to EPA, this
intensive enforcement follows 3 years of compliance assistance and education
for the construction industry regarding national stormwater compliance
The Agency said that it is cracking down because stormwater compliance is
not taken seriously by the industry. EPA warns that stormwater compliance is
a top priority.
But stormwater compliance is not the only area of focus for EPA. If your
facility has the potential of polluting the air or the water--watch out. In
fact, the Agency has selected national program priorities by considering
patterns of noncompliance and environmental and public health risks
associated with regulated industry sectors. The petroleum refinery sector is
a good example of an enforcement target for compliance with the Clean Air
Getting Ready ...
Although you can't avoid the "knock at the door," you can avoid being caught
in the enforcement trap by making sure you are prepared for inspections and
following up on Agency actions.
First, you must prepare your facility and your frontline personnel ahead of
time to effectively:
· Deal with government agencies
· Handle the inspection process
· Respond to violation notices
It is critical that you do everything possible to prepare for and be
responsive during all stages of the inspection process. Your actions will
largely determine whether EPA, OSHA, or your state agency will pursue an
Agency Help--For Better or Worse?
Many state agencies offer pre inspection assistance in the form of on-site
technical visits, telephone assistance, checklists and forms, or a
combination. Whether you avail yourself of these no-cost opportunities
depends on the level of trust and confidence you have in your particular
state agency--and your own "housekeeping."
Some consultants caution that although you can't be prosecuted for
violations found during these visits, you may be put on the short list for
future inspections. Agency help? It's your call.
Checklist for Handling Agency Inspections
Even facilities with great relationships with agencies get inspected. Most
facilities regularly treat Agency inspections too casually. In most
situations, it is better to accommodate inspections so as to minimize
confrontations, memorialize lists of violations, and document prompt and
Agency inspectors will use every lawful means to prosecute violators.
Businesses and landowners should be aware of their rights and duties
regarding inspections. It makes sense to be prepared to protect yourself
against unfair or illegal searches. Here are some practical tips for
handling Agency inspections in a businesslike way.
· Designate a manager and backup to handle inspections. Instruct the
receptionist to notify this person of the arrival of any inspection
· Request the inspector's credentials and make a copy of them. Verify this
person's identity by checking with the nearest regional office if you have
· If any complaint has sparked the investigation, ask the compliance officer
to show you a copy of the complaint.
· Watch out for any out-of-the-ordinary, non routine inspection, especially
by a team of Agency personnel.
· Ask for the purpose of the inspection and the applicable standard.
Determine what parts of the facility the inspectors seek access to. Ask if
the inspection will include documents.
· Notify your attorney.
· Decide whether to invoke a right to insist on a search warrant.
· Record the names of all persons conducting or attending the inspection.
· Discourage tape recordings.
· Conduct any monitoring or take any samples at the same time the inspectors
do and label them. Also take duplicate photographs or arrange, in writing,
for duplicates to be provided from photos taken by the inspectors.
· Restrict the inspection to the stated purposes and legally required
reports and files.
· Use the most direct route to the areas the inspector wants to see,
avoiding other parts of your facility whenever possible.
· Be sure your management representatives are instructed to be cooperative
but not to volunteer information.
· Be sure your management representatives take notes covering everything
that is said during the inspection.
· Inquire if any violations or deficiencies have been found by the
· Ask the compliance officer to suggest ways to correct problems that he or
she has cited.
· Request a copy of the inspection form and the final report when prepared.
· Prepare your own inspection report. Acknowledge findings of the inspector
and confirm promised operation changes in writing, including a list of all
cited violations and corrective action required.
· Immediately correct violations cited by the inspector when it is possible
to do so on the spot.
· Make a special note of which violations have been corrected during the
· Watch for receipt of violation notices, abatement orders, and other
citations that may result from the inspection.
· Before you receive these citations, write to the Agency to list the
violations you have already corrected.
· Act on the inspection results with proper advice and supervision.
· Check your final resolution of any citations with your supervisor and
· Request a closing conference if the compliance officer does not offer one.
· Discuss any violations during this meeting and ask for the compliance
officer's input concerning corrective action.
· Ask the compliance officer to explain your rights and responsibilities in
connection with any citations.
· Ask the compliance officer to fully answer all of your questions
concerning the inspection, violations, citations, or any other related
· Ask the inspector for copies of any photographs or monitoring data
collected during the inspection.
· Take immediate action to correct violations in accordance with the
requirements of the regulations.
· If you decide to appeal an OSHA citation, make sure you file within 15
days of receipt, requesting an informal conference with the Occupational
Safety and Health Review Commission. It's in your best interest to have one
of these informal meetings because what's discussed in these meetings cannot
be used in court, so you can air your protests and get assistance.
· If you want to seek a settlement concerning a citation that you think is
unreasonable, contact the area director at your regional office to discuss
the violation. Try to work out a settlement agreement to resolve the dispute
and eliminate the hazard.
Every facility can expect inspections. But they can be either the beginning
or the end of the enforcement process. The handling of the inspection will
largely determine whether EPA, OSHA, or a state agency will decide to pursue
an enforcement action. It is critical that you do everything possible to
prepare for and be responsive during all stages of the process.
To be totally prepared, its time to update your safety manual at: