by Gina Houser, Safety, Health & Risk Manager, Howco Inc.
When it comes to Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) inspections, my best advice is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America: be prepared.
In most cases, you will not have advance notice of an OSHA inspection of your car wash facility. Therefore, every business that is subject to OSHA regulations and inspections should have its own customized checklist to ensure compliance, as well as an action plan for when an inspection occurs. Then train for that plan to be sure all employees understand the rules and procedures. Prepare your car wash accordingly, and keep it clean. Be scrupulous about all documentation of required safety programs and also have knowledge and documentation of your facility’s history and previous interactions with OSHA.
Inspections typically follow a standard procedure:
* Presentation of the inspector's credentials
* Opening conference
* Examination of records (OSHA illness and injury logs, written safety programs, etc.)
* Walk-around inspection
* Closing conference
Information and documentation often required during an inspection include:
* Unemployment insurance #
* Federal ID #
* Experience Modification Rate
* OSHA 300 logs and 300A summaries for 3 years – possibly 5 years
* OSHA 300 log for current year
* Number of employees at location
* Number of employees in the entire company
Car wash safety and health programs and their documentation that are open to inspection could include:
* General Work Rules
* Emergency Action Plan
* Fire Prevention Plan
* First Aid Program
* Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan
* Respiratory Protection Program
* Personal Protective Equipment Assessment
* Lockout/Tagout Program
* Confined Space Program
* Hazard Communication Program
* Chemical Hygiene Plan
Once the OSHA Safety Compliance Officer (inspector) is on-site, consider the following guidelines for your interaction:
* When an officer comes to your location, you may wish to have onsite employees alert an owner or other member of upper management to come to the facility.
* An employee can ask the officer to wait to begin their inspection until an appropriate company supervisor arrives. They should be courteous and explain this is company policy. An inspector will generally wait up to one hour.
* Be sure to let the officer know at the outset if your facility is enrolled in a voluntary compliance program, as well as if you are actively working with an outside consultant.
* If they have not already been presented, ask to see the compliance officer’s credentials. Any alleged inspector who tries to levy a fine or sell you a product during an inspection is not a compliance officer.
* Key questions to ask the compliance officer at the outset:
* What is the scope of the inspection / what does the officer plan to inspect? Is it a partial or comprehensive inspection?
* What is the reason for the inspection? Is it a planned visit, or due to a complaint or imminent danger?
* If the visit is due to an employee complaint, you may ask the nature of the complaint, but not the identity of the employee.
* Tell the truth. Making up anything is not acceptable.
* Ensure that at no time is an OSHA inspector unaccompanied by an appropriate company representative. Only allow the officer access to what they want to see. For example, if the officer is there to see the conveyor, you should not take them through the back room, the lobby, or into the office in the process of getting to the conveyor.
* Officers will want to see OSHA 300 logs, employee training records, safety data sheets (SDS), and whatever safety programs are in place.
* Take detailed notes. Compliance officers expect this; they want to see that you are taking them seriously. These notes should include the equipment or procedures that are in question or being inspected; whom the officer speaks with during interviews; what is said during interviews where you are allowed to be present; and any records you are asked to produce for the officer to review.
* Inspectors may take samples (e.g., air, water, soil), pictures, and/or video. You should take these as well, i.e., if the compliance officer takes a picture or video, you should also do so from the same angle and different angles, so you capture the true portrayal of the scene.
* Do not interfere with employee interviews. Inspectors may question any employee privately during regular work hours or other reasonable times during the course of an inspection.
* There may be small violations that you are able to fix (abate) immediately. Record these as well. For example, if an extension cord is frayed, take the extension cord out of use. This will show good faith with the officer.
* At the conclusion of the inspection, you will be given the list of citations, if applicable, or be told that the store is in compliance. Record these events in your notes.
* Make sure you have the officer’s contact information, which you should have received at the interview outset.
* Provide all documentation to your safety coordinator or other appropriate company personnel immediately.
In summary, the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and employee regarding OSHA inspections are as follows:
Employer Rights and Responsibilities
* You have the right to accompany the OSHA compliance officer during an inspection.
* If the inspection is a result of a complaint, you have the right to know what the complaint is and direct the officer to the area of concern.
* You have the right to take pictures and make notes.
* Offer to correct violations immediately.
* You have the right to a closing conference, including asking questions and making notes.
* It is your responsibility to post an OSHA notice.
* It is your responsibility to maintain OSHA records.
* It is your responsibility to report injuries and illnesses as applicable.
* It is your responsibility to maintain a positive environment for all employees, even if one files a complaint (no retaliation).
* It is your responsibility to post citations.
* It is your responsibility to abate (fix) hazards found.
Employee Rights and Responsibilities
* Employees have the right to identify hazards in the workplace.
* Employees have the right to file a complaint with OSHA.
* Employees have the right to seek safe and healthful work conditions without being disciplined or fired.
* Employees are responsible for reading the OSHA poster.
* Employees have the responsibility to follow safety and health rules.
* Employees have the responsibility to wear PPE when required.
* Employees have the responsibility to follow safe work practices.
* Employees have the responsibility to report hazardous conditions.
* Employees have the responsibility to cooperate with OSHA inspectors.
Other helpful information resources in your preparation process include:
* National Safety Council
* Your state OSHA website
* Your insurance company should offer free Safety and Risk Management programs as well.
Be safe, and be prepared!