5 inspection tips you MUST know from a former MIOSHA inspector

5 inspection tips you MUST know from a former MIOSHA inspector

We asked our instructor Jason (a former MIOSHA Inspector) this question and here was his response: 

One of the questions that I commonly get as a former MIOSHA construction safety consultant is, "What can I as a builder do to prepare for a MIOSHA inspection?" Over the course of the next few minutes, we're going to look at five basic tips that will help you as a builder prepare for and navigate the inspection process. 

Tip #1 - Prepare your written programs

MIOSHA's construction safety standard part one general rules require that employers engaged in construction activities develop, implement, and maintain an accident prevention program. A copy of that program has to be available at the job site. It is one of the required documents that an enforcement officer will ask for during an inspection. 

Now, depending on the work that you're doing, your written programs may involve a variety of activities. For example, if you are working at heights, working on scaffolding, you may have to have a written fall protection program. If you're cutting brick or block, you would be expected to have a silica exposure control plan, which would also include things like hazard communication and respiratory protection. A simple way to comply with the standard for having these things available is to get a binder and organize your programs in the binder, all right? 

Now, this is an example of MIOSHA's sample program that's available for download off their job site, but you can see I've taken the cover sheet here, which would be your company's information, put it in the front end of a binder, and inside I would have the appropriate programming for the work activities that I was engaged in on the job site. Now, when a compliance officer shows up, this is a portable and easy way to meet that requirement, and you could keep this in your foreman's toolbox, in the truck, but you want to make sure that these are available on the job site when asked for it. 

Tip #2 - Visually inspect your work site. 

MIOSHA has identified five major hazard categories that they typically look for on residential construction sites. 

They include falls, which encompasses working at heights, falls working on scaffolding, and use of ladders. Whether they be A-frame ladders or extension ladders out there on the worksite. 

The next category of things that they look for is personal protective equipment and things such as hard hats, safety glasses, appropriate work boots, things of that nature, and tool guarding. 

So for example, if you're using your table saw out there and you don't have the adjustable hood guard on there or any of the fences or push decks or things like that that are typically associated with a table saw, then you're potential for violation there. 

The last category of things that they look for is electrical hazards. Are you working within close proximity to overhead power lines? And close proximity would be within 10 feet normally, or if you're using an aluminum ladder, would be within 20 feet of the overhead power lines. And that includes maintaining distance between you and the materials that you're handling, etc. The other category of electrical hazards they look for are things like extension cords, temporary power supply, cords from your cord-connected tools. We want to make sure that those things are in good working order and are maintained free of defect. 

One of the things that MIOSHA has put together to assist in this endeavor is a residential construction checklist. Now, this checklist is available for download off of MIOSHA's residential initiative page, and a link to that you'll find in the notes regarding this video, but you want to make sure that you take a look at something like this and put together a checklist for your foreman or yourself to use out there in the job site. And these types of visual checklists just serve as a reminder and to guide your activities for identifying hazards. You want to identify those hazards before the inspector shows up in your job site. 

When driving down the road when we're looking at job sites and making a determination of whether or not we're going to stop, those things that are readily visible from the street are triggers for us, visual triggers, to determine whether or not things look pretty good and maybe we should move on to other more serious hazards, or you have a lot of problems on your job site, which we can clearly see from the road. And then we're going to make that determination to stop at your worksite and initiate the inspection process. 

Tip #3 - Know your rights 

Your rights and responsibilities under MIOSHA are outlined within Public Act 154. The enforcement officer, when they come out to your job site and initiate the inspection process, are going to offer you an opening conference. And that opening conference is a way for them to describe to you what things they need from you, such as your accident prevention program. They're also going to take the opportunity to explain to you what your rights and responsibilities are under the act, and they may use this document that you see in my hand here, which is titled Your Rights and Responsibilities Under MIOSHA, and it's a pamphlet that's available for download off of MIOSHA's website. 

Now, this is a little bit bigger than the normal format for it. I blew it up so you could see it on the camera here, but it's important to be familiar with your rights and responsibilities under the law. It outlines what you can and cannot do. It also describes what your employees' rights and responsibilities are under the act. These things are very important to understand, and I would encourage you to take the time to download this document and become familiar with it. 

Tip #4 - Treat the enforcement officer with respect 

When an enforcement officer shows up on the job, he's there to do a particular job. It's his responsibility under the law to do so. How you react to that enforcement officer's presence impacts the overall results of your inspection. 

Enforcement officers have what's called a good faith worksheet, and when they go out there on your job site doing an inspection, they're evaluating three primary things. 

Management's commitment to safety and health on the job site. It should be your responsibility as a builder. Two, hazard correction and control. To identify hazards out there in the worksite and make sure that those hazards are being corrected. And the last piece that they're really looking at is your employee involvement in that process. 

So as they're walking around the job site, how you treat them, how you react to them, whether or not you take measures to abate hazards when you find them, those are all things that the enforcement officer is evaluating, and the attitude that you as an owner or you as a manager have out there in the work site really clearly indicates to an officer what the overall culture is that he can expect throughout the job site. 

If you have a manager who doesn't seem to care about safety or is combative with an officer, he's going to expect that from the employees on the job site as well and find that the employees probably are not very forthcoming. 

In doing that and expecting those things or seeing those things out there negatively impacts your inspection process. So you want to treat the officer with respect. You want the employees to treat the officers with respect, and to make sure that they're not intimidated or feel afraid of talking to the officer. 

It's their right under the act, and you want them to bring up safety or health issues that they feel are uncomfortable. Maybe they're not comfortable with bringing him up to you, but it's a way to get those things out there in the open and to deal with the hazards, all right? 

If you treat the officer with respect out there in the job site, he is going to afford you that same type of respect in return, and hopefully during the course of the inspection process you have a mutually agreeable process where that you and the officer can work together to abate the hazards there on the worksite in an equitable and fair manner. 

Tip #5 - Abate any hazards identified immediately 

The last tip that I have for you as a builder, tip number five, is to abate any hazards that are identified. 

During the course of the inspection, an officer is going to find things that are unsafe or might be violative conditions according to a particular standard. 

Where you have the ability to immediately abate those hazards, it's in your best interest to do so. Things like tool guarding. If you find a circular saw where the guard has been shimmed. If you find an extension cord that's missing a grounding pin or has been pulled apart because it's been tied in knots or wrapped too tightly. These are all things that we can immediately abate out there in the job site, and it's in our best interest to do so. 

In the previous tip, I talked about the good faith worksheet and the things that an enforcement officer is looking for. That particular point of interest, when we're out there correcting those hazards, is our commitment as managers or owners to job site safety, and taking the time to immediately abate those 

hazards, not just giving them lip service and saying, "Okay, I identified it, I'll get to that later," because later still leaves people exposed during the time that you're doing that walk. 

So if you can abate the hazard immediately, you want to abate the hazard immediately. It goes toward good faith and ultimately, at the end of that inspection, results in some good faith points for you. 

Now good faith points, when we talked about that in the last tip and in this tip, they're not going to significantly reduce any penalties that you might get. A lot of that's going to be based on upon your sizes and employer and a variety of other conditions, but it does go toward whether or not that officer's going to issue a citation or if he's going to issue a hazard recommendation based on the nature of the hazard that's there and it's seriousness. 

So you want to make sure that anything that's identified is addressed immediately if you had the ability to do so. 

I hope you'll find these tips helpful. If you have questions, please direct them to Michigan Builders License. They're happy to help you out. As an instructor, they will reach out to me and I will get you additional information if needed. Thank you.