We recently handled two different cases for employers faced with Cal/OSHA citations and discovered that some important lessons were reinforced.
First, it is vital that every employer conduct and document periodic hazard inspections of their workplace. Both of these matters started with serious injuries leading to Cal/OSHA on-site inspections.
As part of their process, the Cal/OSHA inspector asked for copies of recent hazard inspection documentation and also checked to safety of the work area involved in the injuries.
One case involved an employee whose hand was caught in a metal fabricating machine. Even though the employer had great safety training records, and the guards were on the machine, (not set as closely as they needed to be) the employer had no procedure, no record, nor regular hazard inspections.
This process - usually involving a Safety Checklist - is a requirement of every Illness & Injury Prevention Plan or written safety plan. IIPPs have been required for more than 25 years for every California employer who has one (1) or more employee. As a result, the Cal/OSHA inspector cited the company for failure to inspect for hazards, and the supervisor for not being aware of hazards on two separate violations.
In another case, an employee was injured using a circular saw which did not have a guard. In this instance, the employee's supervisor admitted to the inspector that she had never seen a guard on the machine in the 9 years she had worked at the location.
The company was, in addition to being cited for a serious injury violation of an unguarded say, also cited for failure to identify a hazard and failure to correct a hazard. The case was made worse because the manager's statement - which she was not obligated to give - was all the proof that
Cal/OSHA needed to win their case.
Lessons to Learn:
- Always conduct regular hazard inspections of each work site. Document your inspection, correct anything wrong and save your inspection record.
- Don't volunteer information to a Cal/OSHA inspection. The inspector has a right to inspect, not to interrogate. What you say can and will be used against you. If there is talking to be done, bring in a knowledgeable safety consultant or attorney.
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The Don Dressler Consulting and Cal Work Safety monitor the legal developments on these issues, and offers advice on Cal/OSHA Law and HR / Safety Compliance Issues.
For a personal discussion: Call Don Dressler: 949-533-3742