When organizations within the food industry attempt to comply with OSHA standards and regulations, there are three common compliance mistakes that I routinely observe as an auditor. Each could easily trigger an OSHA enforcement action. First, employers often fail to review relevant OSHA interpretation letters, directives, or the OSHA Field Operations Manual for guidance. Second, employers do not document non-recordable cases and reasons why they are not considered recordable. Finally, employers are not specific in the details when documenting a recordable event. To address these mistakes, I’ve outlined more specific information below on each to help you mitigate the risk of non-compliance – or worse, an enforcement action.
Photo credit: OSHA
The top three most common OSHA mistakes food companies make are:
1. Failure to review relevant, available materials
Many employers do not take time to review OSHA interpretation letters, compliance directives, the OSHA Field Operations Manual, or case law for guidance. When determining OSHA standards and regulations that are applicable to your operation, these materials can help you develop a targeted approach to OSHA compliance.
OSHA has a very long list of interpretation letters pertaining to recordkeeping on just about every scenario. You could find recordable events that may or may not be similar to your exact circumstance. Nevertheless, each letter provides an explanation of OSHA’s interpretation of work relatedness for such events.
OSHA compliance directives provide a better understanding of how OSHA compliance personnel are instructed to inspect and enforce certain standards, and how employers are expected to comply with those standards.
OSHA Field Operations Manual
The OSHA Field Operations Manual provides the field offices a reference document for identifying the responsibilities associated with the majority of their inspection duties. This is important information to know in order to protect your rights and understand your responsibilities as an employer.
2. Failure to document non-recordable cases, and why they are not recordable
Keep a log of first aid cases and document why they are simply first aid cases. Carefully record the type of treatment provided. On this log include details of events where you denied workers’ compensation claims and why. Also keep records of instances where a documented case was ‘redlined’ on the OSHA 300 Log. It is imperative for you to be prepared to justify to the Certified Safety & Health Official (CSHO) why a case was redlined on the log. If a question comes up during CSHO’s onsite employee interviews, your records will help to corroborate the reasoning for a denial or redline.
3. Failure to record specific details when documenting a recordable event
There is a reason why the OSHA 300 and 301 ask for a description of the employee injury — the employer has an opportunity to be very specific. Unfortunately, I see too many recorded cases that are not detailed enough in Column F of the OSHA 300 Log and in questions #14 and #15 on the incident investigation form 301. I know of at least three food industry facilities that were cited for failure to include necessary details in these particular areas. The more detail the better.
All of the documents mentioned above can be found on the OSHA website. These documents should be consulted on a frequent basis. They are resources to keep you informed on how OSHA and CSHOs are interpreting regulation and how they are expected to conduct an investigation on your site.
Simply familiarizing yourself with these resources and consulting them regularly could help to reduce the risk of employer enforcement action, manage potential workers’ compensation costs, and most importantly, help prevent workplace safety incidents in the first place.
Editor’s Note: Alchemy would like to thank Michael J. Aust at 1030 Communications Group for his partnership in creating workplace safety success for companies large and small.