The time is right to review your records and conduct a safety compliance analysis. As of December, OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting (SST) inspection program for non-construction employers with 20+ employees is back and will run for two years.
Also, recently appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh has directed the agency to ramp up inspections. For example, there is now a COVID-19 national emphasis program.
“It’s important to know that OSHA doesn’t normally conduct an inspection that doesn’t result in some violation,” said Certified Professional Environmental Auditor Jack Fearing during the Premier Learning Solutions webinar “OSHA’s New Targeted Inspection Program: What You Need to Know Now.”
Most likely to be inspected
Under the updated and enhanced SST program — which doesn’t apply to office establishments unless they have associated higher risk operations like warehousing, manufacturing, etc. — OSHA’s Office of Statistical Analysis will be crunching 2017-2019 reported injury and illness numbers and notifying area offices about organizations that:
- have a high rate of employee Days Away, Restricted and/or Transferred (DART) time from work compared to their industry national average
- have year-to-year upward-trending DART rates that put them above industry average
- are on the targeted list, but have a low DART rate against their industry average (It’s a red flag for possible underreporting or improper encouragement of employees not to report injury/illness), or
- are “non-responders” that don’t turn in their Form 300A logs on time.
Your DART can be calculated by adding the numbers in columns H and I of your Form 300 log, dividing that by the number of hours worked by all employees and multiplying it by 200,000 (100 employees working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks).
If you don’t know your industry average DART, start your research here. You’ll need the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code number that’s on your company’s insurance paperwork for reference.
“The take-home point is it’s the DART and not the TCIR (Total Case Incidence Rate) that OSHA’s interested in (for SST targeting). And why is that? Because those are the more serious injuries and illnesses,” Fearing said.
“Bottom line here: Conduct an annual audit of your recordkeeping program, making sure you’ve got everything in place that would keep you out of this SST program,” Fearing said.
To stay off OSHA’s radar:
- keep your employee safety training up to date and document it
- encourage employee involvement in the workplace safety program
- ensure protection of employee privacy protection (to avoid whistleblower discrimination scrutiny)
- establish a system to retain and update your safety records
- complete, certify and submit your legally required injury and illness logs to OSHA in a timely manner, and
- complete OSHA and Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys.
To prepare for a possible OSHA inspection, check the agency’s most frequently cited standards and review your company safety inspection records and any applicable abatement plans (failure to abate fines can carry a price tag as high as $13,653 per day beyond the deadline).
Knock at the door
Because OSHA doesn’t have to give advance notice of an inspection unless there are unusual circumstances, Fearing strongly recommended having clear procedures for what to do if an inspector shows up. He suggested including it somewhere in your organization’s emergency action plan.
Fearing advised selecting a safety manager-led team for facilitating compliance inspections that includes HR (oversight of training records), maintenance (to address engineering controls), safety committee members, union representatives with experience in safety and health, etc.
Your procedures checklist can include:
- ensure safety records going back the previous five years — including 300/300A/301 logs, hazcom, PPE hazard assessments and lockout/tagout records — are accessible
- treat inspectors with professional courtesy (hampering the work of an OSHA inspector can result in a criminal penalty)
- verify the inspector’s credentials by calling your OSHA area office
- designate an area to escort the inspector for the opening/closing conference phases of the inspection, such as an office or conference room
- notify your team members
- ask for the purpose of the inspection
- have a kit with supplies like a tape measure, camera, sampling devices (e.g., a noise measuring device), etc. so you can capture the same data the inspector is
- designate an escort for the inspection tour, and
- designate a private space for the inspector to conduct interviews.
“It documents what’s expected of the team members and it gives you the opportunity to be more direct in terms of what your compliance efforts could be,” Fearing said.
Be aware that an inspector can deviate from the stated intent of inspection if there are other workplace conditions of concern in plain view. Also, the inspector probably won’t share specific data or mention any violations during the visit.
Another SST program change is compliance safety and health officers can change the scope of an inspection to records-only if it’s determined an employer landed in the crosshairs because of incorrect data. This ensures a comprehensive, wall-to-wall site inspection occurs only when there are elevated numbers of injuries/illnesses.
According to Fearing, it usually takes around six months after the inspection for an OSHA area office to provide notification of results.