According to a recent report, most workplace safety investigations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against retailers are initiated by employee complaints rather than workplace accidents. The report also indicates that California and Pennsylvania are among the top states where inspections and citations occur.
The November/December 2014 issue of Premier Flooring Retailer included an article entitled “Government Inspectors Are at The Door: Now What Do You Do?” which provided suggested steps to take to ensure your company is prepared for the inspection or search. The basic recommended steps were:
- Designate a Lead Person to be oversee the inspection.
- Answer questions honestly, but do not volunteer information.
- Create a Response Team that includes the lead person, members of the company’s management, legal counsel and the individuals responsible for compliance.
- Contact Legal Counsel and ask for the inspectors to wait until counsel comes to the store.
- Check Credentials of the government agents.
- Contact any outside vendors that provide the services or manage any aspect of your business being reviewed, like installation.
- Request an Opening Conference to determine the reason for the inspection – was there a complaint or is it a routine inspection?
- You do not have to voluntarily agree to allow an inspection, so check to see if there is a search warrant and have your legal counsel advise you.
- Move to an office or a conference room to avoid discussing the inspection in the store, the lobby, the reception room or other public spaces.
- Excuse non-essential personnel.
- Do not leave the inspectors or agents alone. Monitor the search and record everything that is taken and/or copied. Any documents containing trade secrets should be properly identified.
- Do Not Destroy Documents; this can only increase the fines and problems.
- Request a closing conference with the government agents so you can assess if there are any issues or potential violations.
- Let your employees know what has happened to void the spreading of rumors.
- Once the inspection or search is over, the company should conduct an internal investigation to determine whether any violations of the law have occurred.
- Notify Insurance Carrier and Evaluate Insurance Coverage Issues even if you are not sure whether there is any insurance coverage,
These precautions will not automatically avoid inspections or searches, nor will they ensure that the inspectors will not find violations. They will, however, help you manage the inspection process, minimize disruption, and lower potential fines or other actions.