Savings / Safety Tips for September 2017 from All Safety Products, Inc.Would You Tell An OSHA Inspector to Go Get a Warrant to Inspect Your Site?!
Demanding a Warrant for an OSHA Inspection
Would you consent to a search of your entire household by a police officer who got a complaint about you being too loud with your outdoor party but decided he also wanted to poke his nose in all your closets and drawers inside your house to determine if you were breaking any other laws?
You probably wouldn't, right? You wouldn't (or shouldn't)consent to the search because you are aware of your constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause. That same protection applies to the workplace too.
Many businesses and their employees do not realize that a company has the right to tell OSHA to get a warrant before being allowed to conduct an inspection on their site. There is a legal precedent that was decided at the Supreme Court when they ruled in the case of Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc. in 1978 that OSHA may not conduct warrantless inspections without an employer's consent. OSHA may, however, inspect the site after acquiring a judicially authorized search warrant based upon administrative probable cause (like the random selection of a company covered under one of the national emphasis programs) or upon evidence of a violation (such as a valid employee complaint). Some (but, not all) judges will issue a warrant limiting the inspection to the scope of the complaint (like a dirty eyewash station or dirty respirators in the paint shop). Hopefully, you have access to an attorney who is versed in OSHA regulations and case law.
Benefits And Drawbacks to Demanding a Warrant
Some of the "benefits" of demanding a warrant could include buying some time before the inspector(s) comes back, allowing the company time to clean up hazards and therefore avoid citations for existing violations. And sometimes it can take several days, even weeks, for an inspector to obtain a warrant. There have been a few rare cases where OSHA left after being told to go get a warrant and they never came back to inspect. However, if that is your strategy for managing safety and health for your company's employees, you probably ought to get into a different field.
One of the "drawbacks" of demanding a warrant is that it can start you off in an adversarial relationship with the OSHA inspector. A lot of times, the same inspector may visit your plant multiple times (and with you, if you're the safety director/officer), so it probably is wise to learn to cooperate. Just use some wisdom in deciding when and where you may need to exercise this option. There have been some statistics compiled and produced by OSHA that showed companies who demanded a warrant and were subsequently inspected under the warrant received more citations and stiffer monetary penalties, on average, than companies who consented to the inspection without asking for a warrant. This is an important thing for you to consider and keep in mind before sending OSHA away and demanding a warrant.
A True Business Story (names have been left off to keep some anonymity)
Quite a few years ago, a very large corporation had a horrible reputation with OSHA, in part because of their pulling out the "Warrant Required" card every chance they could. If a compliance officer showed up at any one of their hundreds of facilities to conduct an inspection for any reason, it was standard procedure to tell the OSHA compliance officer they could not inspect without a warrant. And if the compliance officer came back with a warrant, the validity of the warrant was challenged in court. And if the warrant was upheld by the court, then any citations that were issued as a result of the subsequent inspection were vigorously contested in court, in a couple of cases all the way up to the US Supreme Court!
But one day the corporate powers decided they would rather direct their resources towards complying with OSHA regulations instead of fighting them which was expensive with attorney's fees, time spent in use of resources (still had to produce records in court), etc. They ended up putting money into beefing up their safety department with some new hires and a new corporate safety director. There are some positive results covered later for this new change of heart covered under "Great Results ..." further down in the article.
Yes, It May Still Be Necessary at Times to Demand a Warrant
There was another instance in the same company where an OSHA inspector was requested to get a warrant (from the company above, now much less frequently after the company made the policy change to be more cooperative with OSHA). Why? Because the compliance officer showed up at one of their largest facilities, and when the company representative asked him why he was there to inspect, the compliance officer told him they had received an employee complaint about dirty respirators in the paint shop. After the OSHA compliance officer told the company representative what specifically triggered his visit, the compliance officer was invited to accompany the company representative to the paint shop to inspect. But the OSHA compliance officer quickly informed the company representative that he would be conducting a "full blown, wall-to-wall comprehensive inspection" of the entire site.
Since there were multiple sites on the corporation's campus, the company representative did not want to allow an expanded inspection that could last several days for no good reason and tie up his own time and cost the company money, time and valuable resources. Things got a little heated so the OSHA Compliance Officer was told that if he was not willing to limit the inspection to the complaint item that he would have to go get a warrant.
Be Sure To Read The Warrant Carefully Should OSHA Produce One
Sure enough, the same compliance officer returned to that facility about five months later with a warrant in hand. When the company representative asked to see the warrant, he was given a copy and there he read where the judge (or actually a magistrate in this case) issued the warrant to inspect, but the scope of the inspection was limited to the investigation of "conditions related to the complaint item" in the paint shop and anything else in plain sight". So the compliance officer and the company representative walked out to the paint shop where the OSHA Compliance Officer conducted the inspection for dirty respirators (just like he was invited to do a few months earlier), and then he left half an hour later (on a side note; no citations were issued).
Some of the Times When OSHA May Not Require a Warrant
And you should be aware that if you make it a habit to tell OSHA to get a warrant, they could obtain an anticipatory warrant before they come to inspect. Also, there are certain situations where OSHA would not have to get a warrant to conduct an inspection; this could include when a compliance officer is able to view workers from a public site, as well as when site management, sub-contractors are working for a main contractor, or other employers working at a military base or a construction site who grant OSHA access to inspect. You should always consult with your company attorney or outside attorneys versed in OSHA regulations and applicable laws so your response meets legal criteria.
Great Results From the Corporation's Policy Changes Towards OSHA and Corporate Safety
Vast safety improvements were made in the company mentioned before because they changed their focus on improving safety and health programs instead of butting heads with OSHA every time they showed up at one of their plants. They improved their corporate OSHA incident rate by nearly 60% in a three year period, down to below industry averages for all of their business sectors. And when OSHA did show up at one of their plants, they were always invited to inspect within the scope of the type of inspection that prompted their visit. So the corporate decision made many years ago to strive to obtain (and ultimately exceed) compliance with OSHA standards paid off for everyone involved. But it was good to know that the corporation's constitutional right to protection against a warrantless search did exist and they were able to exercise that right to protect themselves from one compliance officer's attempt to expand the inspection without reasonable cause.
Confined space tragedy: What can happen when safety rules are ignored!
Confined space tragedy: Failure to use safety procedures - Jan. 16, 2017 was an ordinary day for Florida workers doing service work in a manhole. But the day quickly turned deadly as one utility-contractor worker entered a manhole and rapidly became unresponsive. Seeing the problem, a second worker entered the manhole for rescue. He became unresponsive. A third worker attempted a rescue.
All three men died, according to ehstoday.com.
The tragedy highlights the failure to follow safety procedures at every level. The atmosphere in the manhole was not tested. Had it been, the company would have discovered lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. No procedures were in place for non-entry rescue of the worker. In fact, with three men dying in the hole, two other workers and a volunteer firefighter were exposed to toxic gases in the rescue attempt.
Workers who regularly do service work in manholes or other confined spaces may be acutely aware of the well-documented hazards of such work. Or, since they have easily entered such spaces many times before, they might think the safety issue is exaggerated. That's where safety consciousness is crucial for employers. For ignoring safety procedures, OSHA cited the company in this story with 10 safety violations and a hefty fine. But three men are still dead. The requirements for safely working in confined spaces are relatively simple. The company must test the environment in a space; have a safe way in and out; and have an effective rescue plan.
Safety consciousness is also crucial for employees. Even if safety procedures are followed, an unexpected accident could occur. But one thing is essential to remember: If a confined space renders one worker unconscious, it will do the same for a rescuer. According to Cal/OSHA, two-thirds of confined space deaths involve would-be rescuers. The fact is that it takes about 4 minutes for an oxygen-poor atmosphere to take out a rescuer; not nearly enough time to do the rescue. That's why plans have to be made in advance. First, a non-entry plan and, second, an entry plan in which rescuers have safety harnesses and self-contained breathing equipment, if necessary.
Healthy Tip For September
Shoes make the difference in foot pain, health
The workday can seem long when your feet hurt. Podiatrists at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine give this advice:
Heels - Notoriously bad for your feet, heels cause a painful knot on the back of the heel, according to WebMD. Wearing heels constantly leads to a permanent, bony protrusion called the pump bump. Although ice, orthotics and heel pads may provide some relief, only lower heels will really help since they put the feet in a more natural position. Try heels that are no more than 2 inches high and even these should be used in moderation.
Ballet flats - Since these ultra flat shoes have no arch support, they lead to knee, hip and back problems. Wearers can also get plantar fasciitis, a very painful, though correctable, condition. Orthotic inserts can help.
Flip flops - People with diabetes should not wear them since they lead to minor foot injuries that can become major. They also have no arch support.
Steel-toed shoe wearers - Try a soft over-the-counter sole, or see a podiatrist for a custom-made orthotic insert.
Diabetics - Get your feet measured so your feet won't become crowded. Good foot coverage protects against minor cuts.
Pregnant women - When your feet expand, buy a larger size shoe. Everyone should buy shoes at the end of the day when feet are naturally larger.
Podiatrists recommend these exercises: Sitting with feet on the floor, first lift just your toes and hold 10 seconds. Then with heels on the floor, lift the rest of the foot and hold for 10 seconds. To stretch the Achilles tendons, stand away from a wall with feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed straight ahead. Lean forward into the wall, bending the elbows. Hold for 10 seconds.
Delicious Recipe: Iron-skillet seared chops and peaches
Here's a meal that brings out the flavor of the delightful peach, even if, as a yankee, you get store peaches that are routinely hard. This idea from emeals.com makes a showy dish with the orange fruit setting off the chops and onions.
2 thick boneless center-cut pork chops
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Sprinkle pork lightly with salt and pepper.
Cook in hot oil in a cast-iron skillet* over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes per side or until browned.
Remove from skillet.
Add onion to skillet; reduce heat to medium.
Saute 5 minutes or until onion is browned and tender.
Stir in peaches and broth.
Return pork to pan.
Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until pork is done.
Sprinkle with basil.
*Cooking with cast iron - If you are tired of wimpy, scratched non-stick pans, maybe it's time to think cast iron skillets. This is the skillet used over outdoor fires for centuries and it's still used by great chefs. Cast iron cooks evenly, goes from stovetop to oven, and will last a lifetime. Generally the pans won't warp, but use them cautiously on electric stoves, the heat from which is usually uneven.
Proper seasoning of a new skillet will give cast iron a natural, smooth, non-stick surface, according to whatscookingamerica.net.
Here's how to do it:
Rub a very thin coat of vegetable oil on the pan and then towel it off. It should look dry. Now bake the pan upside down in the oven for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Put a sheet of foil below it to catch any drips. It might smoke a little. Don't worry about it. Let the pan cool in the oven to room temperature.
Repeat the process. Now every time you cook with the pan you are seasoning it again. Tips for using cast iron Preheat your cast iron before using. Water droplets should sizzle and roll on the pan. Never pour cold water into cast iron. It will crack instantly. After cooking, empty the pan and let it cool on the stove. Wash with dish soap and water. Rinse thoroughly. Dry with a towel. Rub on a thin coat of oil and store with a paper towel inside. Never put cast iron in a dishwasher.
(Editor's Note: Although this article suggests using dish soap, we only use hot water heated up in the skillet (not too hot) and a silicon scraper to scrape off food. The reason for this is that we don't want to wash away the seasoning of the pan. It is important to lightly coat the pan with oil (we use canola oil) after washing.)
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