With the Biden administration on the horizon, we can expect to see a number of changes in the way the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s regulations are maintained and enforced. For starters, Biden has already called on the agency during his campaign to “double the number of OSHA investigators to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines.” This shouldn’t come as much as a surprise given the 33,401 OSHA inspections conducted in the fiscal year 2019 alone — the greatest number since 35,820 were conducted in 2015. We are sure to see a gradual increase in the agency’s number of inspectors as well, which has dropped to 790 in the Trump administration.
With greater enforcement and inspections down the line, now is the perfect time to evaluate your health and safety program. Not only will you be minimizing your regulatory and safety risks, but you’ll also be making your workplace much more efficient in the process. Given that the prospect of audits and self-inspections can be very overwhelming for a number of employers, we’ve taken this opportunity to break down this process into manageable pieces. If you need any further assistance conducting an audit or self-inspection of your jobsite, get in contact with one of our Tennessee OSHA attorneys.
Conduct a Regulatory Audit
The first step to avoiding OSHA’s hefty penalties and uncovering compliance problems before they lead to violations down the line is to conduct a regulatory audit. Consider this the first phase of the safety audit, in which you search for any issues that could result in injuries, penalties, or both if not properly addressed in a timely manner. During this type of audit, a designated auditor will take a look at your training program, documentation, and hazard assessment protocols to ensure compliance with the relevant OSHA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulations. Below, we’ve outlined just a few of the questions the auditor may ask regarding any of these organizations:
- Has every employee at your jobsite undergone basic health and safety training?
- Have you conducted a hazard assessment?
- Does your jobsite have applicable written OSHA programs?
- Can employees safely access these programs and Safety Data Sheets?
- Is there an EPA ID number?
- Are all hazardous wastes manifests organized and kept on-site?
- Is the proper DOT signage posted?
- Are all employees trained on DOT regulations?
- Does your jobsite’s on-site chemical storage require a hazardous materials permit from the state or local fire department?
- Are any sprinkler heads obstructed?
These are, of course, only a preview into the handful of questions an auditor may ask to keep your jobsite in compliance with workplace health and safety rules. If you need an attorney to conduct a third-party audit of your jobsite, look no further than one of our OSHA attorneys.
Related: The Importance of EPA Self-Audits
Complete a Facility Inspection
A facility audit is a department-by-department investigation into your construction business’s physical premises, teams, and workforce behavior. These audits typically occur as the second phase of a safety audit once you have already evaluated your overall compliance with the regulatory authorities like OSHA, EPA, and NFPA. During this audit, you’ll be drilling down into more targeted concerns like documentation and communication, department-specific hazards, employee behaviors, and more.
For example, each department performs different duties with different tools, levels of risk, employees, and rules. To ensure everyone is doing their specific job safely, you’ll want to know which standards apply to each department. While all machines need to be functional, properly maintained, and used in accordance with workplace standards, some equipment will need to be inspected daily, while others only need to be inspected annually, and so. A quick scan of the environment won’t tell you everything you need to know, so, once more, we’ve outlined some questions that the auditor will likely pose:
- Are there spills or fall hazards to note?
- What types of equipment are the employees in each department using? What condition is this equipment in?
- Are the employees trained to use each of the tools they are using?
- What is the layout of the facilities?
- Is the environment loud or distracting?
- What is the condition of walking or working surfaces?
- Do employees have any feedback on how to improve the program?
Create a Safety Committee
Finally, once you’ve conducted a comprehensive regulatory audit as well as a facility inspection, it’s time to create a safety committee. This will bring any audit and inspection findings into focus so that members may convene to determine your business’s next course of action, prioritize necessary improvements, and designate employees to make these changes. In addition to senior managers, your safety committee should always include department managers, key employees from each department, and your HR manager. Just be sure to abide by state-specific guidelines on the committee’s function, employee involvement, and representation within the committee.
Once you have your committee members in place, your next steps to a successful committee should be to document bylaws, procedures, and standard agendas and assign responsibilities to each member. You never want your committee to fall short as a result of not being consistent or specific with accountability. Whenever you identify an action item, you need to have someone’s name beside it. If you feel as if your safety committee is struggling for any reason, don’t wait until it’s too late to get in touch with a Florida OSHA defense lawyer.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.