Part two of a three part story by Paul Andersen OSHA Compliance Services
In the last edition we opened the story with a gentle reminder that Wineries, Growers and related services providers are subject to all appropriate CAL/OSHA rules and regulations. We discussed what triggers an audit and the basics on being prepared. Please continue to follow us with part two of “How to Survive an OSHA Audit” and in our next edition the conclusion of the story in part 3.
The Workplace Inspection
After the initial contact and introduction, the OSHA Compliance Officer (CO) will begin the inspection with what is known as the “opening conference”. The CO will tell you why they are there and what the basic process will be. Most likely the next step will be a review of the required written programs and documentation. This includes your safety programs (Safety Manual, IIPP, Heat Injury Awareness Prevention Program, and other OSHA-required programs) recordkeeping and training records.
During the inspection, it’s wise to document the inspector’s actions and comments. You are allowed to photograph (video or still) the inspection if you wish. Take photos of the equipment, item or area when the CO makes an observation. Your photos and detailed noted will help your staff understand what transpired and will assist your safety professional or attorney should you contest the citation or penalty. If you don’t take photos, at a minimum, take detail notes of any comment or observations the CO makes. Items you should record in your notes should include:
- The inspector’s name, title, telephone number and email address (covered in the “opening conference” meeting)
- The reason stated for the inspection (covered in the “opening conference” meeting)
- The attendees at the opening and closing conferences
- The documents that the inspector reviewed (note: you are not required to give copies at this time)
- The areas that were inspected
- The employees and (union) representatives who participated
- The dates and times when the inspector was on site
When the inspection is completed, the CO will end with a closing conference. During the closing conference the CO will review any apparent violations and discuss possible methods for correcting the violations within a reasonable time period. The CO will explain that the violations found may result in a citation and a proposed financial penalty and then will describe the employer’s rights and answer all questions.
Always keep in mind the closing conference is not the time to debate or argue with the CO.
Be cooperative but also be aware of your rights.
Contact can be made by a OSHA Compliance Officer at a job-site or at your place of business. In either case, your staff needs to know who within your company needs to be contacted and what to say or more importantly what not to say. Upon the initial contact with the OSHA Compliance Officer, your designated company representative needs to be notified and dispatched to meet the CO. You are entitled “reasonable time” to have a representative from management be contacted and travel to your location. “Reasonable time” is subject to interpretation, so be prepared to settle for an hour or two, maybe three. If you need to gain more time to afford the safety manager or counsel to be present, you might be able to negotiate with the CO or possibly call the OSHA District Manager and politely explain why you need more time. Sometimes it’s a simply as stating it’s your company policy to “wait” until the company representative arrives.
Remember, it’s your facility and you have rights. Maintain professional control of the inspection. The CO must follow all safety procedures and wear the appropriate PPE when conducting the audit.
Though it is your right, it’s not generally recommended that you require the CO to obtain a warrant before entry. Again, it is your legal right to ask for a warrant but this might trigger a more rigorous audit and possible give the impression you are hiding something. It’s wiser if you simply work with the inspector. Be professional, answer questions truthfully and most importantly do not offer any “extra” information or explanations.
The CO may also want to interview employees. It’s up to your hourly employees if they want company representation during the interview. Your employees should cooperate and be truthful. One thing you should be aware of is that employees do have “whistleblower” rights.
As for management and supervisor interviews, always have another manager or your counsel present during the interview. If there is a serious injury or fatality investigation, your attorney should always be present. At the conclusion of the interview you will probably be asked to sign a statement or an acknowledgement of the report.
Continue to cooperate with the CO as long as they remain ethical and professional. If the CO refuses to wear the proper PPE or is acting in an unsafe or unprofessional manner, politely stop the inspection ask the CO to accompany you out of the area. You have the right to stop the inspection under the above stated reasons. A call to the OSHA District Office should be made if the above occurs.
Part three of a three part story to be continued Monday on the Wine Industry Advisor.