Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A business owner from California called me the other day to talk about a letter he received. From OSHA. Sorry, “Return to Sender” does not serve as a useful response in this case. Specifically, several months ago, an OSHA representative was driving past one of the Company’s job sites, saw some anomalies, and decided to stop and visit that job site. To those of us who know what that means, it’s called an OSHA audit.

Did you just blink? Did your blood pressure just increase? Did you just think “Uh oh!”?

If not, you’ve never experienced an OSHA audit. Stay blissful. Stop reading this posting immediately.

Upon receiving the OSHA letter from the owner, I thought it would be useful if I shared its content with you, to prevent such an occurrence in your company.

Violation 1: The Code of Safe Practices was not posted at a conspicuous location at the job site nor was it provided to each supervisor who should have had it readily available. Penalty $420.

That penalty seems a little excessive to me, for what is ostensibly an administrative issue. In response, I suggested that all employees receive training on the Code of Safe Practices during their New Employee Orientation Program with refresher training annually thereafter, verified of course, by the Safety Holy Grail, the Employee Sign Off Sheet. I further recommended that a copy of the entire Employee Handbook, that should include the Code of Safe Practices, become standard material in each Company vehicle. I also suggested the Safety Coordinator call the workers compensation vendor to get a full list of all documents (e.g., injury reporting procedures, itemized SDSs, directions to clinics) required by OSHA at the job sites.

Violation 2: The job site did not have enough suitably-trained persons to render first aid. Penalty $420.

Again, in my mind, financially excessive and exclusively administrative in scope. While not all states require First Aid training, I recommended the Safety Coordinator check the First Aid training sign-in sheets to identify those employees who have and have not completed that biannual OSHA training requirement. I also suggested that the Safety Coordinator contact the workers compensation vendor to get a full list of all required OSHA training topics and ensure they are offered as safety tailgate sessions every year.

Violation 3: The job site did not have a fully-stocked first aid kit in a weather-proof container. Penalty $420.

Naturally, I recommended the Safety Coordinator ensure that all Company vehicles have a current, fully-stocked, OSHA-approved first aid kit. I also suggested that first aid kits be included to the Company’s Weekly Vehicle Inspection Form, and that the Safety Coordinator contact the workers compensation vendor to get a full list of all required OSHA materials (e.g., fire extinguishers, PPE, potable water) for each vehicle.

Violation 4: An employee working in a location with a risk of head injuries, was not wearing approved head protection. Penalty $5,060.

Apparently, when the OSHA representative was driving by the job site, he happened to see an employee not wearing a hard hat. When asked, the owner told me that his work crews are routinely trained on proper PPE and the non-compliant employee observed by the OSHA representative had in fact attended those tailgate sessions as verified by the safety training sign-in sheets. Furthermore, the PPE training and the Employee Handbook both specify that hard hats must be worn when appropriate. In this situation, I suggested that the employee and the work crew Foreman both receive a written reprimand; the employee for not executing safety training correctly on the job site, and the Foreman for not holding his work crew accountable for demonstrating those safety behaviors contained within the PPE tailgate session.

The take-aways from this $6,300 lesson include: continually train employees on safety, leverage the workers compensation vendor to be more proactively instructive on OSHA requirements, realize OSHA violations can be administrative and operational, and hold employees accountable for safety on the job site.

Otherwise, continue to enjoy your blissful state.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.