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The first thing facilities should do when they receive the letter is examine the accompanying injury and illness data, Godes advises. It is possible that OSHA’s information about the facility is incorrect. Look at the statistics yourself and dispute them if they are wrong, he suggests.

Second, get your OSHA ducks in a row. “Before an inspection is a possibility or probability for you, you need to have developed a comprehensive safety and health plan,” says Louis Gosset, OSHA attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoat & Stewart in Raleigh, NC, and former commissioner of labor for the state of South Carolina. It is irresponsible not to have plan in place, he says, because a good safety plan has a significant effect on your insurance rates, the safety of your employees, and your ability to pass an inspection.

Choose An OSHA Coordinator

First, pick an OSHA point person. “You need someone who is familiar with safety and health, is familiar with your operation, who has authority in your facility and who can make decisions without always having to run out of the room,” says Gosset. “If OSHA inspectors find out the safety and health person doesn’t have a lot of say in the facility, they’ll think the company’s safety and health policies might just be lip service,” he warns.

After you have a point person in place, get some outside help, Godes recommends. The benefit of hiring an OSHA consultant is that they offer an outside perspective on safety, he says.

The consultant can help you with every step of your program from issue spotting to implementation, says Joy Boese with E3 Consulting Corporation in Los Angeles, CA.

“After we’ve assembled our OSHA team, we try to identify high-risk groups within the facility,” says Boese. The consultant will then call in personnel such as occupational therapists to perform a 30- to 60- minute evaluation of a sampling of people from this group. After the site evaluation, the consultant meets with the management to layout the options. “We offer them solutions in the minimal, moderate and optimal ranges with an estimate of the cost for each,” Boese explains.

To find a good consultant, says Godes, you should ask for recommendations from similarly situated facilities, Your state association or your workers’ compensation carrier.

The OSHA letters offer small employers another option: OSHA’s “on-site consultation program.” This program is available to employers with 250 or fewer workers. The letter explains that the consultation is free, separate from the inspection program and there are no fines even when a problem is found.