Many contractors are weary when OSHA comes to interview their employees. Part of the concern is inevitably over the uncertainty of the process; however, there are some items that most contractors can expect. The OSHA inspector will without hesitation ask your employee if they have been trained on fall protection. The inspector will ask very specific questions regarding how the employee was trained, who performed the training, and how often this training occurred. Employees need to be prepared to answer these questions, and company training policies should allow the employees to tell the inspector they are frequently trained by the company’s safety director or a third party safety consultant. The employee should also be able to tell the inspector that he or she was trained once upon hire, and retraining occurs at least once a year. Additionally, the employee will need to advise the inspector about any videos or lectures they are required to attend in order to complete the company’s training program. It will further support your defense if the employee notifies the inspector about any weekly tool box talks or routine safety meetings they are made to attend at specific jobs.
All contractors should also be able to recite OSHA’s fall protection standard. This has become a major source of citations in recent months, and is easily preventable if employees are prepared for the OSHA interview. The employees must report to the OSHA inspector that they are fully aware of OSHA’s regulation requiring the use of fall protection at heights of six feet or more above a lower level. It is not necessary for employees to identify the exact provision within the Code of Federal Regulations, but they must be able to tell the inspector that he or she is trained to recall that regulations exist which require all employees working on a surface with unprotected sides and edges at six feet or more above a lower level be protected from falling by the use of a fall protection system. The magic words required to support your company’s defense against this type of citation is six feet. The employee must tell the inspector they always wear fall protection when working at a height of six feet or more.
Another favorite interview tactic of the OSHA inspector is to question an employee on the dangers of a fall. Often times this question is so alarmingly simple that roofers have trouble giving OSHA the correct answer. If OSHA asks employees if they are aware of what happens if someone falls from a roof, the best possible answer will always be to inform the inspector they have been trained to recognize that death or serious injury can occur from a fall. If an employee makes the mistake of reporting to the inspector that falls are not always dangerous or that roofers can sometimes survive a fall, there is a strong chance the company will be cited for an inability to properly train employees on the hazards associated with a fall.
OSHA inspectors also prefer to ask employees if all falls are preventable. Most roofers would immediately reply that falls are preventable, but that construction is a dangerous and high risk profession. This is not the answer we should provide to OSHA. The administration wants to see that your employees are trained to recognize the fact that all falls are preventable. An employee should never tell OSHA that injuries are an unpreventable reality on a construction site. If OSHA inspectors ask your employees if falls are preventable, the answer should always be to inform the inspector that all falls are 100% preventable.