May-June 2016

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12 PalletCentral • May-June 2016 nder the Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) Act of 1970, OSHA was directed by Congress to do inspections and investigations at worksites to determine compliance and to advance protection of workers from hazards. There are both programmed and unprogrammed inspections. Programmed inspections include those conducted under the National Emphasis Programs such as amputation prevention and combustible dust, and the "site specific targeting" enforcement visits that focus on high risk employers in high hazard industries. More common are the unprogrammed inspections, and the majority of these currently arise from reports of severe injuries and fatalities, or by imminent danger observations made by inspectors (typically hazards in plain view at construction sites). After imminent danger and accident investigations, OSHA's top priority is the hazard complaint-based inspection. The OSH Act gives each employee the right to request an OSHA inspection when the employee believes there is a violation of a workplace safety or health standard that could result in physical harm to workers. OSHA will maintain confidentiality, if requested, and will inform the complainant of any action it takes regarding the complaint, and can review with the worker any decision not to inspect. Up to 30 percent of OSHA inspections in the pallet industry may arise from employee hazard complaints. OSHA accepts complaints by phone and also on-line, and will give priority to those complaints from current employees. They normally will not conduct complaint inspections if the complainant insists on being anonymous, although the agency will maintain confidentiality and will not disclose the name of the complainant to the employer. Even worksites that have qualified for participation in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), which gives participating companies a pass on programmed inspections, can still be subject to hazard complaint-based visits. In a complaint-based inspection, the OSHA inspector will hold an opening conference, and explain the purpose of the visit, the scope of the inspection, and the standards that apply. The employer is also entitled to get a copy of the employee complaint involved (with the complainant's name deleted). The employer has the right to have its own representative accompany the inspector, and if there is a union or a designated employee's representative, they get to be part of the inspection team as well. U Whistleblower Issues and Hazard Complaints: Where HR and Safety Intersect By Adele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP SAFETY

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