Jim Poage on how to minimize OSHA fines and keep your employees safe.

Today’s podcast guest is Jim Poage, Safety Director at Formetco, Incorporated.  Jim discusses how to minimize OSHA fines and what to do to keep your employees safe.

OSHA issued 81 citations with $280,000 in fines to Display Advertising companies during the past two years.  What jumps out at you.

You pointed out that Virginia was one of the leaders in citations.  That was really not too surprising because Virginia is a state plan. They are required to have a state program that is equal to or exceeds the Federal program…There are a number of state programs that almost lost their charter because federal OSHA felt like they weren’t enforcing policy…Virginia had been kind of lax for a while…so now they are going to the other extreme and they’re writing a lot of citations…I’ve had a number of Virginia companies come in and sit through the week long training class that we do and they did it as part of an abatement agreement with OSHA…

Why is OSHA anxious to publish citations?

Duke University did a study that was published in the Stanford school of public policy that said one press release on OSHA violations resulting from and inspection has the same effect with other employers as 210 inspections… So if OSHA has a really tough inspection with a company, that results in lots of fines and citations, approximately 210 other facilities will take a look at their operations and try to make corrections on their own.

Fall protection is a leading source of OSHA citations.

Fall protection and fall restraint is one of the top 2-3 reasons for citations in the outdoor industry…A lot of companies are trying to break the old mentality that people had in the past that as long as I can hold on to the structure really good, I don’t need fall protection…One of the companies that was acquired by Clear Channel back when I was working with them was a perfect example of that though process.  One day before the acquisition paperwork was signed there was an operation gentleman that was training a new hire on posting ad copy on a Saturday.  The new hire gets out his harness and begins to put it on and trainer says what are you doing?  You don’t need to wear that stuff today, OSHA doesn’t work on the weekends…They walked up on this board and as they were getting ready to change the ad copy and the guy who had just made that statement walked off the end of the deck because he wasn’t paying attention and fell to the ground breaking his back…

Are fines negotiable?

They are absolutely negotiable.  And that’s a misconception that a lot of people have whenever they get into an inspection/citation situation…At the closing conference the OSHA inspector will say “I’ve concluded after my OSHA inspection and talking with your employees that these are the things we are going to issue you a citation for,” and they’ll run down the list and they’ll say you’re looking at a potential citation amount of $10,000…When your final paperwork comes in and you’ve got OSHA citations that are specific to the paragraph of what they say you violated you can determine if you really have a violation or if it is something you’d like to discuss with a high level person at OSHA… You can then request an informal hearing with the area director…and if you have evidence to support you claim, you can say I think these citations may be extreme, or I feel these citations should be dismissed… If the area director agrees, it becomes more of a bargaining issue.  I’ve had people…come to my class as part of an agreement during an OSHA citation where they said how about I spend the money on training rather than write you guys a check…OSHA is always negotiable on both the penalty and the citation.

How does Formetco help keep out of home workers safe?

Since 2017 Formetco has been doing week long operations training sessions.  We have people come in we do an OSHA 10 hour course that’s geared to the out of home industry.  We do CPR and first aid, we do best practices for operations, we do beginner and advanced climber training, we do all these different types of hands-on classes…In addition…I have helped a number of companies as an advisor on everything from how their policies should be constructed to how to respond to OSHA…We have a number of different safety products like harnesses and lanyards, and some proprietary equipment such as our Ladder Stabilizer and our Ladder Grab safety cable system.  We are committed to keeping workers as safe as we possibly can.  We have recently constructed our own 310 pound drop test mannequin to further test the equipment we supply.

We are currently planning our next safety seminar so we encourage everyone to get on the Formetco email list…We have recently revamped our website to include a great deal of information.  If you go to formetco.com and click on hardware you  will see a safety link that shows you where you can click on my safety blog and find safety talks, safety tips, answers to safety questions, and we’re posting a bunch of videos there in the near future.

Tomorrow Jim talks about what to do when an OSHA inspector shows up.

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