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Be prepared for that visit from OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the few governmental agencies in the Las Vegas Valley (other than the police) that may knock on your door unexpectedly without an employee or competitor alerting it to a possible violation.

Every facility should have a written procedure of what to do when a governmental agency wants to do an inspection. Employees other than managers should know where your procedures handbook is and how to handle an unexpected knock on your door.

Once the inspector is admitted and has shown his or her credentials, there is an opening conference. The inspector will let you examine any written complaint. The inspector will explain what he or she is looking for, and that can involve health and/or safety issues.

At least two employees should accompany any visiting inspector at all times. One employee should take detailed notes of what the inspector finds and says. If the inspector takes pictures, the employee should take identical pictures.

During the inspection, any violation the inspector sees can mean a citation, so pick the shortest route possible to where there is a complaint.

No information should be volunteered, but all questions should be answered honestly. If the employee doesn’t know the answer to a specific question, the inspector should be told so.

The second employee should see about getting immediate fixes, if possible, to any violation the inspector finds.

At the end of the inspection, there is a closing conference. Then OSHA has six months to file a complaint. If you receive a citation and feel it is not warranted, you can file an appeal.

Employers should know repeat violations and/or willful violations get expensive quickly and might land you in jail. OSHA can go back three years looking for repeat violations.

If any employee comes to management and complains about a possible violation, it needs to be investigated and corrected immediately. To ignore such notice from an employee often can be considered a willful violation.

Every facility should have:

▶ Clearly marked, unblocked exit doors and electrical panels

▶ A facility diagram with exits clearly marked, displayed where employees can see it

▶ A clearly displayed OSHA safety poster.

You can invite OSHA to do a courtesy inspection. If you initiate such an inspection and a violation is found, you will be given an opportunity to fix whatever is wrong and avoid a citation.

A safety committee is required when a facility has 25 or more employees. This committee should meet regularly; notes should be taken. The safety committee is a good choice to do safety audits at least once a quarter.

If you provide individual safety equipment, make sure employees know how to use it. Require mandatory use of this equipment.

Nevada OSHA offices have videos and other training material you can check out and use.

New federal accident reporting procedures took effect Jan. 1. All fatalities still need to be reported within eight hours. A new reporting requirement has been added — each work-related in-patient hospitalization, amputation and loss of an eye must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours.

Reporting injuries may be done:

▶ By telephone to the nearest OSHA area office during business hours

▶ By telephone to the 24-hour OSHA hotline (1-800-321-6742)

▶ Electronically, using the new online form that soon will be available. Visit (https://www.osha.gov/report_online/index.html)

The new reporting procedures are a federal requirement. The new reporting procedures now include industries and an estimated 200,000 businesses previously exempted. You can check the OSHA list at https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/reporting_industries.html to see if the changes affect you.

Some good news is that some industries have been taken off the list of those required to keep records. That information can be found at the same website.

OSHA may contact companies that are now required to keep records to discuss the changes. You can check on how to report the information yourself under “tutorials, information fact sheets and FAQs” on OSHA’s new recordkeeping webpage at https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/index.html

Roger Bishop is a certified human resources specialist and owns and operates Applied Human Resources, Inc. in Las Vegas. He specializes in helping small to medium size companies and non-profit organizations. Reach him at 702-237- 1333 or by email at Roger@appliedhumanresources.com.

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