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OSHA’s Knocking? Answer the Door with Confidence

02 Oct, 2023 Claire Muselman

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Las Vegas, NV (WorkersCompensation.com) -- The atmosphere at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center was already electric with the 2023 National Workers' Compensation & Disability Conference underway, but when Jeff Breskin made his entrance dressed as Elvis Presley, dancing to the iconic "Viva Las Vegas," the energy in the room reached a whole new level. The session promised valuable insights and entertainment, setting the stage for a critical discussion on how businesses should handle Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) audits and inspections.

Jeff Breskin, a Risk Management, and Workers' Compensation Specialist, and Adam Lopez, a Loss Control and Safety Specialist, both from the Insurance Office of America, joined Dr. Claire Muselman, a Professor of Practice at Drake University, to turn what could be a potentially dry subject like occupational safety and health regulations into an engaging and memorable experience.

Dr. Claire Muselman kicked off the discussions with a vivid narrative. She delved into why OSHA exists—to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for men and women in the labor force. Muselman included uplifting and harrowing real-life case studies to hammer home the point. The stark contrast between successful inspections and failed audits demonstrated the importance of being prepared when OSHA comes knocking. From there, she transitioned smoothly into explaining that inspections from OSHA don't occur randomly. Whether instigated by routine checks, worker complaints, or incident investigations, these inspections aim for one thing: safety first.

Adam Lopez then took the floor to elaborate on the complex expectations from OSHA and the organizations being audited. He emphasized that an OSHA inspection is not an adversarial event but rather a collaborative process aimed at improving workplace safety. Lopez insisted that a certain level of decorum and professionalism is expected from both parties involved. Understanding this symbiotic relationship sets the stage for successful audits, he explained.

And what are the practical steps one can take when OSHA arrives unannounced? Lopez advised that when auditors show up, ask them to wait 30-45 minutes, allowing you time to consult with your in-house legal and management teams. Also, always request their credentials and inquire about the focus of their investigation. Jeff Breskin chimed in to clarify that you have specific rights concerning the timing of the inspection. It's your facility, and you can insist that the inspection occur at a more reasonable time if necessary.

The conversation moved naturally to the actual walkthrough phase of an audit. Dr. Muselman suggested that taking photographs to document every aspect the auditors are examining could be crucial for future references. "If they take a picture, you should be right behind the inspector taking the same photograph. A picture is worth a thousand words," Muselman noted. She advised that thorough documentation is your best defense in a dispute. The documentation theme was seamlessly linked to the session's closing moments, where Dr. Muselman suggested questions to prepare for the closing conference with auditors.

Taking a more somber tone, Jeff Breskin shifted the conversation towards the legal implications, citing specifics from the California Penal Code. It became glaringly evident that negligence in safety could lead to dire consequences, not just in fines but potentially in criminal charges. As a poignant example, the panelists discussed a 2012 case involving Bumble Bee Tuna in California, where negligence led to tragic outcomes, severe legal repercussions, and the unnecessary loss of a life. Breskin added other examples throughout his career in the risk management space to provide an in-depth depiction of how something small can turn into something irreparable and life-changing.

So, how does one prepare for an OSHA audit proactively? Adam Lopez returned to the stage to offer some actionable steps. Assigning responsibilities, conducting hazard assessments, and engaging in regular safety training were fundamental steps. Safety training needs to be more than speaking to people through PowerPoint; it must be engaging and consumable for employees. These preventative measures, Lopez argued, are the building blocks of a company's defense against legal complications.

Finally, Dr. Muselman concluded that consistent and diligent record-keeping could make or break your compliance status during an audit. She stressed that a well-documented safety program could serve as a robust shield against citations and penalties, and many technology platforms help provide additional resources. As a final word, she urged businesses to remain vigilant and proactive in the quest for ensuring a safer and healthier work environment.

In a fitting close to an event set in Las Vegas, the session ended with a lighthearted raffle of a framed Elvis Presley concert ticket stub presented by the Elvis of OSHA, Mr. Jeff Breskin. The nostalgic nod to the King of Rock' n' Roll was a fun reminder that serious topics can be engaging and entertaining. Above all, it reiterated the session's core message—that knowledge, preparation, and vigilance are crucial in navigating the complex landscape of OSHA audits and regulations.

Through comprehensive yet easily digestible advice, this panel made it clear: when OSHA comes knocking, businesses that prepare well can answer the door confidently.


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    About The Author

    • Claire Muselman

      Meet Dr. Claire C. Muselman, the Chief Operating Officer at WorkersCompensation.com, where she blends her vast academic insight and professional innovation with a uniquely positive energy. As the President of DCM, Dr. Muselman is renowned for her dynamic approach that reshapes and energizes the workers' compensation industry. Dr. Muselman's academic credentials are as remarkable as her professional achievements. Holding a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, she specializes in employee engagement, human behavior, and the science of leadership. Her diverse background in educational leadership, public policy, political science, and dance epitomizes a multifaceted approach to leadership and learning. At Drake University, Dr. Muselman excels as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program. Her passion for teaching and commitment to innovative pedagogy demonstrate her dedication to cultivating future leaders in management, leadership, and business strategy. In the industry, Dr. Muselman actively contributes as an Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation and plays key roles in organizations such as Kids Chance of Iowa, WorkCompBlitz, and the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, underscoring her leadership and advocacy in workers’ compensation. A highly sought-after speaker, Dr. Muselman inspires professionals with her engaging talks on leadership, self-development, and risk management. Her philosophy of empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of her message, encouraging innovation and progressive change in the industry. "Empowerment is key to progress. By nurturing today's professionals with empathy and intelligence, we're crafting tomorrow's leaders." - Dr. Claire C. Muselman

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