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Lesson Learned After Working With CalOSHA

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November 13th, 2012 |

We recently consulted with a facility that had received eleven CalOSHA citations. The facility had a large anhydrous ammonia storage tankthat was used to fill smaller nurse tanks. When CalOSHA arrived onsite to perform an inspection, the facility did not have a PSM program in place because they were attempting to claim the PSM retail exemption. Out of the eleven violations that they received, eight (8) were considered General, and three (3) were considered Serious. Here is a brief summary of the violations:

Serious Violations

  1. Failure to develop and implement a respiratory protection program
  2. Failure to perform a process hazard analysis
  3. Failure to perform employee training in accordance with the PSM requirements

General Violations

  1. Failure to develop and implement a lockout/tagout program
  2. Failure to provide regular forklift driver training
  3. Failure to document a monthly eyewash/shower station flush
  4. Failure to evaluate contractors in accordance with the PSM requirements
  5. Failure to perform and document pre-startup safety reviews in accordance with the PSM requirements
  6. Failure to perform and document mechanical integrity inspections in accordance with the PSM requirements
  7. Failure to develop and implement a hot work permit program
  8. Failure to perform and document management of change procedures in accordance with the PSM requirements

Although the facility was admittedly guilty of each of these violations, they still opted to appeal the violations for the following reasons:

Due to the limited number of employees onsite (3) and our exemplary safety record, we feel that the time allotted for abatement and the proposed penalties are unreasonable.

In addition to the appeal reason stated above, we also aimed to change the three (3) Serious violations into General violations.

After each of the violations had been abated we requested a prehearing conference with CalOSHA to discuss the appeals and abatement issues in a conference call. The prehearing went exceptionally well. CalOSHA accepted all abatement documentation and reduced the total fine by 40%. While we were not able to remove the Serious violation labels, CalOSHA was willing to combine two of the three Serious violations so that the facility will have ten violations on record instead of eleven.  Here is a summary of some of the lessons we learned throughout this process…

  1. CalOSHA is reasonable – I know this sounds crazy, but contrary to public perception, CalOSHA can be reasonable and was very easy to work with in this instance.  Treat OSHA inspectors like human beings and you might be surprised when they treat you well in return.
  2. Always file for appeal – If you receive a citation it is always worth your time to attempt to file an appeal. Filing an appeal does not mean that you are denying guilt, but rather it shows that you disagree some aspect of the violation or want to discuss it further. Think of it this way…the worst thing that can happen is that they will reject your appeal.
  3. Request more time – CalOSHA seems to be willing to work with facilities that are straight forward and honest with them. If you have legitimate reasons to request more time for abatement, let them know and they’ll likely provide it.
  4. Make sure that your written programs are in place- Here’s your homework…in the next 24 hours, make sure that you have the following programs readily available if applicable. If you don’t have them in place, get them in place soon.
    • Process Safety Management (PSM)
    • Risk Management Program (RMP)
    • California Accidental Release Prevention (CalARP) Program
    • Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)
    • Confined Space Entry Program
    • Respiratory Protection Program
    • Lockout Tagout Program
  5. Be honest - If you don’t have the required program, training, documentation, etc…don’t pretend like you have it. If you’re honest with an inspector it is much more likely that they will work with you to help you get in compliance.

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