You were just notified that a MIOSHA safety and health officer is onsite for an inspection. What is the best way to handle it?
First, recognize that a MIOSHA inspection can have significant financial and practical consequences for the unwary employer. Addressing these inspections effectively can mean the difference between huge administrative fines and surviving relatively unscathed.
Second, remember that a MIOSHA safety and health officer is a human being too, just like you and me. People are people are people! Almost without exception, we respond in a positive manner when treated with a genuine courtesy, kindness, and respect. In fact, the importance of this cannot be overstated!
Finally, be better prepared by understanding the inspection format and following these tips:
The MIOSHA officer will likely arrive unannounced, present his or her credentials and business card, and seek out the person in charge. If employees have a designated representative, then that person will be asked to join as well. If there is no designated employee representative, then the officer will likely conduct employee interviews. Tip: Be courteous, kind, and respectful!
An opening conference will be used to explain the purpose of the visit, the format of the inspection, and both employer and employee rights and responsibilities. Among the employee rights that will be reviewed is the protection from discrimination provided by MIOSHA. An employer is prohibited from discharging or in any manner discriminating against an employee for exercising a right provided by MIOSHA, including the filing of a complaint, participating during an inspection, or testifying at a hearing. Tip: Assemble your team of key employees to be present at the opening conference and get 100% engaged!
All required recordkeeping documents such as the injury/illness log (Form 300) and any required written programs or procedures that apply such as Hazard Communication/Right-to-Know and Lockout/Tagout may likely be reviewed. Tip: Well-organized records generally help shorten the inspection’s duration and minimize scrutiny!
An actual walk-through of the facility will take place. Conditions that could endanger employees will be pointed out; exposure measurements will be taken if necessary and described as they relate to violations of occupational safety or health standards. Tips: 1.) Take notes and photograph any MIOSHA recognized hazards; but do not point out other things to the MIOSHA officer. 2.) It is highly desirable to abate any hazard during the walk-through inspection, if at all possible! Immediate action by your team demonstrates a powerful commitment to workplace safety, which has resulted in “Serious” violations becoming “Other-than-Serious”; and, in some cases, potential violations have even gone away!
A closing conference will be used to discuss any findings, determine the amount of time necessary to correct any remaining hazards, and review your rights to appeal the department’s decision. Tip: Assemble your team again in order to effectively plan abatement of any remaining hazards!
After the conference
The inspection report is sent to MIOSHA in Lansing for review. If a citation is issued, it will be sent certified mail to you. A copy of the citation must be posted upon receipt at or near the site of the violation. MIOSHA citations can carry monetary penalties and will contain time requirements for correcting the violation(s). You can accept the findings, correct the violation(s) within the required time frame, submit the proof of abatement and pay any monetary penalty; or disagree with any part of the findings, including the violation itself, the amount of time required to correct the violation, or the proposed monetary penalties. If you disagree, options include the Informal Settlement Agreement (ISA) Program or an appeals process. Tip: Have a legal and/or safety professional review the citation before you make a final decision to accept or disagree. Just accepting the citation is often not the best course of action!