I had no thoughts of OSHA regulations haunting our halls as I finally rushed from my office late morning that October 31st.
I was half way home to help my wife prepare for son Paul’s birthday party, when “THE CALL” came from Jennifer, our production administrator. She informed me that an inspector from OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) had arrived at the office. I had 30 minutes to get back there, or they would start the inspection without me.
“You’re joking!” I responded, but she assured me it was no joke.
Jennifer was right in the middle of improving some of our Health and Safety systems. Additionally, we had even discussed getting ready for an OSHA inspection.
“Now, wouldn’t you know OSHA would show up on Halloween?” I grumbled. I called my wife Susan to tell her I’d be late, and reluctantly hurried back to the office.
Horror Stories of OSHA Regulations Inspections
As I drove, I remembered a recent conversation with a friend, who also owns a printing company. He had just had a surprise inspection by OSHA and had called recently to warn me it might happen to us anytime. My friend likened the experience to the Nazi Gestapo entering his building; flashing badges and interrogating his staff. Not to mention, striking fear in his heart that they might fine him heavily or even shut his business down! I had taken my friend’s prompting to heart and made some serious checks of our systems.
The drive back to my office allowed me to do a mental inventory of the things I was sure would pass inspection at our company. Still, the specter of OSHA’s visit had me dreading what might turn out to be some lengthy inquest about things even our systems had missed. I encouraged myself that my company had been prepared well enough, that maybe even the “Gestapo” could not scare us now.
The 100 Percent System of Cleanliness
I began to relax and regain my confidence, thankful that we had already made many improvements in Safety and Health issues.
Due to our “100 Percent System of Cleanliness” we had everything organized, labeled, and in its place. You may have heard this system called “Five-S”, a lean management term.
Our employees had submitted countless suggestions for improvements over the years, due to our Continual Improvement System. We had an organized “Right to Know” station set up with all of our MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) documents and posters, along with our Lockout Tagout System. Safety equipment (disposable ear plugs, back braces, etc.) was all in designated places. Chemicals were stored in clean, labeled, heavy steel storage bins. This had already been in our system; and we continually improve that system, I reminded myself.
Jennifer had just scheduled a training session with a local fire extinguisher company to give our staff training on how to use fire extinguishers. It occurred to me, I had never actually had to pull the pin and fire one of those. Good chance to learn! We had also scheduled training on forklift operation. ALL of this happened prior to OSHA’s “creepy” unscheduled visit.
Meet the OSHA Inspector
Upon finally arriving back at the office, I found Jennifer already in conversation with the inspector in our conference room. The atmosphere was pleasant enough, and they were getting along nicely. Jennifer’s calm helped to put me at ease also about possible issues with OSHA regulations. I was proud of how Jennifer handled herself; confident that we were already on top of things with our systems. Of course, we didn’t know exactly what would happen, but our systems allow us to always be pro-active.
The OSHA inspector interviewed me, first. He had his own checklist of questions, which we were able to answer without concern. One question: “Do your employees have access to necessary documents?” I gave out with a resounding (and relieved) “YES!”
“We have a browser-based software system that gives employees access to all documents and information needed to do a good job!” I assured him that it included all the information for their health and safety that OSHA requires. “It’s our written systems that empowers our employees, enabling us to maintain and improve the company and each of our staff’s workstations.”
After touring and inspecting our plant, he described our housekeeping as “impeccable.” He said it would “go a long way” in his report. I was able to appreciate the OSHA inspector’s visit after all!
Before he left, he thanked me and said, “Do you know how many companies I visit, where I don’t even know where to start, because there is so much clutter and chaos? It’s nice to visit a company that really seems to GET IT!”
Systemization keeps a business prepared for just about any eventuality. Even on Halloween!
Did I mention? Great Systems Work!