OSHA Isn’t Messing Around
Help Your Clients Avoid Serious Penalties
Workplace safety is always essential, though not always prioritized by all employers. Employers today should take note, however, that OSHA is toughening its stance on repeated offenses in particular and giving new authority for additional citations, according to a January 26, 2023 Department of Labor news release. The goal is to hold employers more accountable for repeated health and safety failures.
What does this mean to employers?
In a perfect world, employers care deeply about the health and safety of their workers and prioritize safety efforts in the workplace. However, we know that isn’t always the case in reality, either due to other business priorities or simply ineffective efforts toward safety.
Wherever your clients fall in this spectrum, this is a great opportunity as an agent to remind them of the consequences of poor workplace safety, from employee injuries to OSHA penalties and much more. Help them understand how to avoid an audit and what to do in the event of an audit, while also arming them with the resources to execute.
How to help clients avoid an OSHA audit (or prepare just in case)
Some OSHA audits are unavoidable, while others are preventable. For instance, OSHA may choose to target workplaces in certain hazardous industries. On the other hand, OSHA also may conduct audits in cases of high injury rates, worker complaints, or other clear noncompliance such as failing to electronically submit your annual OSHA records.
An employer’s best bet to avoid an audit in the first place is to take safety seriously and ensure their workplace follows all OSHA standards. Luckily, those same steps will help employers avoid penalties in the event of a surprise OSHA audit. Share these recommendations with your clients to help them prepare:
- Follow all applicable OSHA standards and regulations. Make sure you are aware of and comply with all OSHA standards that apply to your workplace. This includes having safety equipment, posting hazard warnings, and following proper safety procedures. Compliance checklist and audit resources are readily available and can help make this easy.
- Conduct regular safety inspections. Regularly check your workplace for hazards and take steps to correct any issues that you find. This can help prevent accidents and injuries, which could lead to an OSHA visit.
- Train employees on safety and build a culture of safety. Make sure all employees are trained on proper safety procedures and have the knowledge and equipment they need to work safely. Beyond that, instill safety into the workplace culture by encouraging employees to report near misses or hazards, prioritizing safety in your work processes, and keeping safety top of mind in the workplace.
- Keep accurate OSHA records. Keep accurate records of injuries and illnesses, and report any serious incidents to OSHA as required. OSHA recordkeeping mistakes are quite common—send this great resource to your clients to help them avoid errors.
- Respond to employee concerns. If an employee raises a safety concern, take it seriously and address it promptly. This shows that you value your employees' safety and can help build that culture of safety and prevent OSHA visits.
By following these steps, you can help ensure that your workplace is safe and healthy for your employees, which can help you avoid an OSHA visit.
What to do in the event of an audit
As mentioned above, no matter how seriously an employer takes safety and OSHA compliance, sometimes an audit will occur regardless. The steps above will prepare employers in that event and hopefully help avoid violations or penalties. In addition, if OSHA shows up at the workplace, it is important to cooperate and be respectful. Here are some steps your clients can take:
- Determine the purpose of the visit. OSHA may be conducting a routine inspection, responding to a complaint, or investigating an accident.
- Gather information. It can be helpful to have information about your company's safety and health programs, hazard communication programs, emergency response plans, and OSHA logs readily available.
- Accompany the inspector. You or a designated representative should accompany the OSHA inspector during the inspection to help ensure that the inspection is conducted efficiently and accurately, and provide any needed context for the inspector.
- Cooperate with the inspection. It is important to be respectful and cooperative during the inspection. You or your representative should answer the inspector's questions truthfully and provide any requested documents or information.
- Request an explanation of any violations. If the inspector identifies any violations, ask for an explanation of the specific requirement that has been violated and how you can correct the issue. It is important to take OSHA inspections seriously and to address any violations in a timely and thorough manner.
As an agent, sharing these recommendations with your clients is a great way to provide value and a good opportunity to touch base on a topic other than insurance. To deliver even more value, send them this OSHA bundle of resources (and don’t forget to brand them to your agency first!).