Employers have an obligation to ensure safe work environments, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the primary agency tasked with ensuring they do just that. OSHA also has the authority to conduct invasive investigations that may lead to potentially devastating citations, fines, and penalties when employers fail to comply with standards and regulations.
Hendershot Cowart P.C. works with employers throughout a range of industries in developing strategies and comprehensive compliance plans that enhance workplace safety, protect the health of employees, and reduce risks of OSHA violations. With extensive experience in OSHA matters – both from a preventative basis and defense – our OSHA lawyers provide the insight and counsel clients need when navigating the regulatory haze of workplace health and safety laws.
OSHA Compliance Plans
OSHA regulations are dense, and can vary by industry and work environments. Regardless of size or sector, however, all employers face challenges when protecting workers and ensuring compliance. This includes requirements for reporting, posting, recordkeeping, and periodic OSHA inspections. It can also include requirements for written safety plans.
Because there’s a lot to take in, knowing the key issues regarding OSHA compliance plans is important. Here a few things worth knowing:
Proactive approach – From an employer’s perspective compliance plans serve two main purposes: prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace, and reduce exposure to OSHA enforcement action, including citations, fines, and others serious consequences. The operative word here is “prevent.” While traditional approaches are often reactive, meaning a problem is addressed only after an accident occurs, a new standard is passed, or inspections result in citations, identifying and fixing hazards and potential violations before they occur is a far more effective approach for safety and regulatory compliance. Taking a proactive approach to your compliance plan can provide the time to properly audit and asses what’s needed, take steps to carefully create and implement needed processes, and allow for evaluation and improvement.
Written plans – Not all OSHA regulations require written safety plans that describe a company’s process for identifying hazards, preventing accidents, and taking steps when incidents do occur, but many do. OSHA requires employers to have written safety plans for over two dozen specific workplace issues, as well as more than a dozen specific chemicals. Examples of activities or safety programs which require written plans include:
- Hazard communication plan (exposure risks)
- Emergency action and fire prevention
- Blood borne pathogen exposure control
- Hazardous energy control (lock-out / tag-out)
- Electrical safety protection
- Fall protection
- Confined space
These plans may be comprehensive, such as illness and injury prevention programs, or they may be specific to certain hazards, job duties, or pieces of equipment. As the blueprints for keeping workers safe and reducing risks for citations, these plans should be carefully constructed, meticulously evaluated and refined, appropriately implemented, and enforced in every area in which they are required.
Core elements – While compliance plans may vary, they should all touch on a few core elements. Knowing these elements and understanding the “bigger picture” can help guide employers and workers in achieving goals of safe practices and safe worksites. According to OSHA recommendations, the core elements of compliance plans include:
- Policy statements / objectives (management leadership)
- Identification of responsible parties
- Hazard identification and assessment
- Hazard prevention controls and safe practices
- Emergency plans, catastrophe management, and accident response
- Employee training and communication
- Process Evaluation and improvement
Benefits – Creating comprehensive compliance plans may be a time-consuming and challenging task, but employers should view them less as chores or ways to avoid penalties, and more as a component of their business’s overall success that can provide benefits. After all, effective, practical, and robust policies and programs can facilitate a smooth operation. For example, implementing sound safety and health practices has been linked to:
- Increased engagement and better workplace morale
- Enhanced productivity and process and service quality
- Improved employee retention and recruitment
- Reduction in costs, including workers’ compensation premiums
Customization / flexibility – OSHA standards and guidelines require action from employers, but addressing the core elements of compliance is not a one-size-fits-all matter. Any process created by employers should be tailored to the unique needs of each workplace. Because OSHA regulations are both complex and constantly changing, safety and health programs should also allow for flexibility so they may evolve and improve through ongoing testing, evaluation, and modifications that help refine programs and their function within the operation of a business.
Employee training – Employee education and training are valuable tools for informing workers and managers about hazards, preventable controls, and policies that prevent accidents and allow for more productivity. Another element of training, however, is to provide workers and managers with greater engagement with company safety programs, and the ability to help with its development, modification, and implementation. Our team assists employers with navigating OSHA training requirements, including general industry and construction training, as well as with voluntary training guidelines. We also ensure training programs not only meet regulatory standards, but are also clear and easily understood.
Decisive action – This may seem like a simple concept, but far too many employers mistakenly believe owning an OSHA guidebook will guarantee compliance. Doing the bare minimum or sidestepping important elements of compliance creates tremendous risks for businesses, which is why proactive and decisive action is so important. Our attorneys provide the resources, committed team, and insight employers should view as invaluable investments that help protect workers and help manage risks.
Hendershot Cowart P.C.: Full-Service OSHA Compliance Law Firm
Hendershot Cowart P.C. is recognized nationally for our work in complex and high stakes areas of law, including OSHA, business law, health care, construction, litigation, and more. With decades of collective years in practice, our award-winning attorneys know the common missteps employers make when creating compliance plans, as well as the severe consequences which often accompany those mistakes. Our knowledge of OSHA laws and experience in OSHA citation defense provides insight employers can leverage when drafting and implementing plans that align with relevant OSHA regulations, changing standards and regulatory developments, and the issues regulators most commonly look for, cite, and use as a basis for disciplinary action.
Whether you need assistance with creating a customized OSHA compliance plan for your business, preparing for an inspection, or defending against citations and penalties, Hendershot Cowart P.C. is here to help. Our Texas OSHA attorneys serve employers throughout Houston and the state of Texas, as well as states nationwide.
Learn more about working with our firm on your OSHA compliance matter by calling (713) 783-3110 or contacting us online.