As a company, it is your responsibility to not only ensure that you comply with all applicable government regulations but also to provide your employees with a safe workplace. OSHA’s General Duty Clause states that companies must provide a workplace that is “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”
Work environments and their hazards are constantly changing, and the General Duty Clause was created as a way to capture hazards that might not be written into the Code of Federal Regulations. It is a way for OSHA to invalidate the excuse of “It isn't in the regulations, so I don't have to do it.”
The requirement can feel broad, but it simply means that employers must take steps to identify and fix the hazards in their workplace. The best way to accomplish this task is through a strong safety inspection program.
The word inspection is used a lot, but because there are different types, it's important to clarify their differences.
Internal Inspections are conducted by the company as a way to measure their compliance to their standards and those of a regulatory body. Inspectors are acting in an advisory role and are there to identify areas of risk for the company and then offer recommendations. An example of an internal inspection would be the safety manager walking a job site and observing workers and the general condition of the site and then documenting their findings.
Regulatory Inspections are conducted by a representative of a government agency to measure a company's regulatory compliance. The government agency might have been given a tip that the workplace was unsafe or the inspection could be in response to an accident. In 2021, nearly half of all OSHA inspections were the result of a complaint (23%), a referral (18%), or an accident (5%). If the inspector does find deficiencies in compliance, citations and fines may be issued.
Internal inspections can benefit your company in a multitude of ways.
Improved safety: When done correctly, inspections can have a profound impact on a company's safety and compliance. By documenting your inspections and using software to analyze the data you will receive valuable insight into the unique hazards and risks of your workplace. That information can then be used to make proactive changes that make a real difference. A safer workplace is a happier, more productive workplace and can have an impact on employee morale.
Cost savings: Eliminating hazards proactively with inspections will directly impact your company's accident and injury rates. We all know that injuries cost a lot of money. However, most people only think about medical bills, loss of productivity, and potential lawsuits. They don’t know that injury data is used by insurance companies to calculate your premiums. They don’t know that companies look at injury data during their prequalification process to determine if they want to work with a company. The more injuries you have the more the outside world views you as a risk, and the less likely they are to want to do business with you.
Avoid government attention: If you are not systematically checking your companies compliance, how confident will you be the next time a government agency comes knocking on the door? Internal compliance inspections are the best way to prevent the fines, citations, and government scrutiny that comes along with noncompliance. Documenting your inspections also demonstrates to regulatory bodies that your company is making a good-faith effort towards compliance.
If you are new to inspections, here are 8 steps to make sure you get off on the right foot.
1) Inspections must be documented. Without documentation, it's impossible to prove that they happened. In General Industry, some 66 OSHA regulations across 17 subparts of 29 CFR 1910 require inspections to be conducted. Fourteen of these requirements require the inspection to be documented in writing. If a government agency comes and asks to see your inspections they want to see proof, they’re not going to take your word for it.
2) Determine what questions your inspection is going to ask. What are you trying to accomplish with the inspection? Are you focusing on pure compliance or overall site safety? Using inspection technology customized to your company's needs is a great option because it eliminates the uncertainty when picking inspection questions on your own.
3) Determine who will be conducting the inspections. The more inspectors you have, and the more diverse their backgrounds, the better. Different people often notice different things. A floor-level employee will spot different hazards than a member of management.
4) Decide where and how often inspections will be done. You need inspection data for all shifts, areas, and tasks if you want to have the best understanding of the workplace. If all inspections are being done in one work area during one shift then you will not have an accurate picture of your company's safety and compliance.
5) Create real value from your inspection. Filling out a form without giving it much thought might give you the documentation that you need. However, you will be missing the chance to create a safer and more compliant workplace, and the hazards and risks that threaten your company will persist.
6) Use technology to compile and analyze the inspection data and identify trends and gaps in compliance. If the data shows you that every time the warehouse was inspected the floor was wet, you know it's a persistent hazard that must be addressed. Without analyzing all the data you might assume that the wet floor was a one-time occurrence.
7) Act on your inspection findings. Without acting the inspection process is useless, it won't change anything. Take action, educate employees and management on your findings, look for solutions, and fix the hazards.
8) Create accountability by determining who will fix each hazard and then set a time frame for them to do it. Have a system in place to check that these “action items” have been completed. This is how you make real change, you get people involved and you hold them accountable.
If you have noticed a dip in your company's safety and compliance performance you might need to take a closer look at your inspection process. Properly executed Internal inspections will identify risk, correct hazards, increase employee awareness, as well as boost worker morale by demonstrating a company's commitment to safety and compliance. The benefits of inspections are clear, but managing the process to get the most value can be challenging. Software tools can help to manage the process and provide visibility into results.
Dakota Auditor is designed to test and verify regulatory compliance in your workplace. When inspections are related to regulatory requirements, its integrated regulatory library helps to provide clarity and guidance. It also allows users to analyze their inspection findings to identify trends and then to create corrective action plans which is the key to creating a safer and more compliant workplace.
Watch the demo video to find out all the ways Dakota Software can help take your safety and compliance to the next level.