OSHA Inspections – How To Prepare
Roy Kroker, Consultation Mgr., OSHA, Oregon
Did you know that a consultation by OSHA cannot trigger an OSHA inspection? Hear from Roy Kroker, Consultation Manager of OSHA, Oregon. Roy explains that the Consultation and Enforcement divisions operate independently.
In this 26 minute interview, Dan Clark asks 16 questions of Roy on OSHA’s free consultative services, OSHA’s new hazard communication label standard, confined space, arc flash, and more.
Roy describes how his staff can go to any workplace with free, confidential advice. They have many experts, offering consultancy in general industry, construction, agriculture, logging and ergonomics. Links to federal and state OSHA websites are in the transcript, below.
Brandon Nys: Welcome to Safety Experts Talk. Visit our website at CreativeSafetySupply.com/podcast.
Roy Kroker: That’s what I get out of our job and my level of satisfaction is knowing that I have a group of professional staff out there to provide assistance and help to employers and all they have to do is ask for it.
Dan Clark: Your workplace has never been inspected by OSHA. As a manager, you’re worried that if OSHA made a surprise visit, you’d fail miserably. What should you do?
Hello, I’m Dan Clark. Today we’re with Roy Kroker, Consultation Manager for OSHA, Oregon. Hi, Roy.
Roy: Hi, Dan. How are you doing?
Dan: I’m well, thank you. So OSHA’s Consultation Division is there to help the company owner or the safety manager. Is that right?
Roy: That is correct.
Roy: Well, most of the folks that call—employers that call—and request consultative services are smaller employers who can’t really afford to hire their own safety and health professionals.
Dan: And it’s free?
Roy: Doesn’t cost anything other than your time that it takes to go through. The staff that we have can provide specific or comprehensive. So, we can come out and look at just a specific operation, a specific piece of machinery, a specific written program or we can look at the whole gamut of safety and health issues that you may have at your worksite.
The employer is really in control of the depth of services that we provide, and again it’s all free. It is confidential. We do not talk to enforcement about anything that we’ve done or seen. And we provide a report that details all those information for the employer to use for, as a reference.
Dan: An OSHA consultation visit cannot trigger an OSHA inspection.
Roy: Enforcement and consultation are two separately managed programs. Requesting a consultation will not, in and of itself, trigger an inspection.
Roy: It’s confidential. We don’t share any information with enforcement. We actually give employers, that request the consultation and go through it, a deferral. An inspection deferral process, depending on whether they are a fixed facility or a mobile facility. And those are 60 days for fixed and 30 days for mobiles, past the time of our report.
The reason for that deferral is to give employers time to address and correct hazards that the consultants have helped them to identify.
Roy: So there is an exemption process that occurs for that, using our services. But, the exemption is only for scheduled inspections. So, if an employer has a complaint or if enforcement receives a complaint, a referral or they have an accident or fatality, enforcement has jurisdiction to come in and do inspections even though there is a consultation under way. We stop our consultative activities if those kinds of things occur.
Dan: If you show up at a facility and you see something on the very first day you walk in for a consultation, you see something that is extremely dangerous. Do you have the right to shut down that operation?
Roy: From a consultative standpoint, no we don’t. We don’t have the authority to do that—as far as shutdown an operation. What our consultative guides and my staff will do is, if they see a, what we would classify as an imminent danger situation.
So, somebody’s going to get seriously hurt if this isn’t addressed or taken care of. We will actually stop the consultation and have a conversation with the employer that says “Hey, we’ve got to remove those employees from that exposure. The employer needs the correct and take care of that issue so that nobody gets hurt.
Roy: I’ve been at this or 15 years and we have yet to have an employer not correct something that we’ve identified along those lines. So, enforcement has the authority to be able to shutdown pieces of operations or different types of things if employers don’t fix it or correct it. We, basically, suspend our services if they won’t do that. But, again, I haven’t seen that done in 15 years where they haven’t agreed to correct what we’ve identified.
Dan: Tell me about the times that you have come back to the office and say “Wow. You wouldn’t believe what I saw today!” I mean, you can’t reveal company names or anything but, you know, those Darwin award photos. You’ve seen those pictures, like, there’s a forklift lifting another forklift with a guy on a ladder on top of that. What have you seen that surprised you?
Roy: (laughs) You know, the typical excuse is “Well, we’ve done it this way for 30 years.
Roy: And, and no one’s been injured. And I relate that to playing Russian roulette.
Roy: I’ve done construction types of activities and general industry and I have actually seen ladders used as scaffolding from the back of a pickup truck that is actually leveled with car ramps.
Roy: So they leveled the truck with car ramps so that the bed of the truck would be level and then, put the ladder in that to access the siding for the house.
Roy: And to add insult to injury, it’s actually two trucks that were done that way. So, they were parked back to back so they could get both ladders going up.
Roy: I look for things that don’t look correct when I go out and do these types of consultative activities. And usually if it’s not correct, I always go “Wait a minute. Can somebody get hurt? Is this a hazard?” Let’s help an employer recognize “Hey, this is a hazard.” And let’s correct it. And then there may be a rule that goes with it, or whatever, and we’ll give them that reference to it. But, it’s really identifying hazards.
So, I’ve seen some really funny things, that you’re just like “Oh my goodness!” But you help people realize why it’s probably not a good idea to do things the way they’ve been doing it.
Roy: And as long as you can do that and help educate them. That’s what our consultative section is about is to help educate employers and employees about the hazards they deal with on a day-to-day basis and how to recognize those.
Dan: You said that some of the people give you the excuse that “We’ve been doing it for 30 years this way.” Was that the ladder situation or was that something else?
Roy: Most of the time it’s with guarding. When people say “We’ve done it this way for 30 years or more,” it’s usually when you’re guarding a piece of machinery or equipment.
Dan: Oh, the machine guard?
Roy: Yes. Probably the most common is a sprocket or shaft that isn’t guarded. It’s, maybe, a keyway type of shaft. And it’s been in there in a walkway for a number of years. And the maintenance guy’s “Well, you know. Hey, this has been this way forever. No one has ever pointed it out to us.
“No one has pointed it out to you. I’m sorry.” (laughs) But these are the potential issues and hazards that it presents. And, if you put a guard around it, you actually cover that hazard so nobody can get exposed to it.
Those are probably more common. The types of things that “I’ve done this way for 30 years and never had an issue,” that I’ve run across.
Dan: A lot of it is just objectivity. You’re seeing something for the first time, where these guys see the stuff every day.
Roy: Correct, and that’s one of the challenges that any safety and health person has or any employer has. You get so used to seeing your operations and how things are at your site and it’s very beneficial to have others come and take a look at your operations because they will see things that you just overlook and take for granted. It’s not that you don’t see it, it’s just that you become accustomed to it. That’s why we recommend safety committees that do their walk around, look in different places or different areas than what they would normally do.
Roy: Because they can help identify those kinds of issues and answers.
Dan: You said you’d been with this portion of OSHA for 15 years? Was that consultation the entire time, or were you in other departments?
Roy: I’ve been on the enforcement side. I started off as a health compliance. I switched to safety compliance and then I switched to a consultant. And then a field manager. And now the consultation and public outreach education manager.
Dan: Wow. So, you’ve done everything. You could probably do every job within the industry then.
Roy: That was actually my goal, was that if I was to look at doing consultations and provide the best service I can for employers, I would need to have an understanding of how safety enforcement worked and how health enforcement worked. And most of our consultants—we have 31 consultive staff that can provide safety and health consultative services to any employer that wants it, for free, without inspection activities. With no fines and no penalties—and those staff members that we have, almost all of them, prior to coming to consultation, were in the enforcement—either health or safety—in some capacity.
Dan: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of experience!
Roy: Yes. There’s a ton of experience that we have to, to help employers!
Dan: What interested you about safety in the first place to make a career out it? You’re a young man in your, say your early 20s or maybe your teens, I don’t know. What prompted you to go this direction?
Roy: That’s a rather long story (laughs) but I was in, in the service.
Dan: Oh, I see.
Roy: I recognized a couple of different occupational injuries that had occurred. So, I went to school in the military and got some of the best training and most intensive I’ve ever found anywhere. And that’s where I started, was in the service.
I haven’t looked back since. I truly enjoy helping people, employers and employees recognize hazards and then providing them suggestions and ways to help mitigate or control or remove those hazards. I found my life calling. And I will continue to do this until I can’t do it anymore.
Dan: Well, it sounds like it’s a very fulfilling job for you, and you’re making people safe. That’s good.
Roy: That’s the intent. The hard part, sometimes, is you can provide all kinds of suggestions and you can say this is what you need to do or should do to protect employees. And, you walk away and you never really know “Are they going to implement it? Are they going to take these recommendations and address and take care of the hazards?” But as a confidential and free service that we provide to them, we have to do our best to convince them and sell them as to why it’s a good thing to do that.
Roy: Most employers, a matter of fact, there’s very few employers that once we explained to them what were doing that don’t want that kind of service. Because, why would you call a free consultative service for safety and health to help you identify and help you control hazards and then not want to correct what they’ve identified for you.
Dan: Well, the only answer I can come up with is the key word there, FREE. They’ll take free advice, but if the advice involves spending money (laughs) whoa!
Roy: Sure! There are… and that’s why I am reluctant to use the term FREE. The service is free. The corrections and some of things that might need to be taken me cost. But, again, we’re talking about injuring workers.
Dan: That’s right.
Roy: Most everything that we identify is fairly in line with what enforcement identifies, as far as electrical issues and hazards. The majority of them do not cost that much to fix.
Roy: You’re talking guarding issues, those kinds of things—in most instances—they’re not that cost prohibitive to do.
You know, there are some other things. If you’re doing noise abatement, so it’s too noisy and you’re above 95 dB or you have a really noisy environment, and you have to look at engineering controls and changing, you know, whole pieces of equipment and things. Those are long term abatement projects that employers can actually work with us long term to help abate.
Roy: There are potential costs associated with it. But, a majority of those are really not that expensive to fix.
Dan: Yeah. Earplugs are cheap.
Roy: Well, the hearing conservation program is—if you have to have an audio metric testing and all those kinds of things—there is a cost associated with that kind of service. But, in reality, it’s minimal compared to what the comp claim’s going to cost.
Dan: The fixes are relatively easy. Hearing protection. Engineering controls. Things like that.
Roy: Right, and, you know, doing some noise dissymmetry in determining what exposure levels are and making sure that the earplugs you provide are adequate to protect. This is all the types of things that my consultants, our consultants, have conversations with employers on a daily basis. These are the kinds of things we help them understand that, addressing this hazard that we helped you identify really isn’t that expensive to do but there are steps you can take to help mitigate and work down that road.
Dan: Good. I have a few questions that some of our clients often ask. And some of them seem simple, but they still ask. So, I want to go to the source here.
Dan: Will a company be fined if they’re using the NFPA diamond, the labels, after June 1st and December 15th, the GHS deadlines.
Roy: Well, that could be a really complicated question. The short answer is the NFPA diamond system was initially designed for first responders. For employers to put this placard on the outside of buildings or facilities that housed chemicals.
Roy: Over the years, people have attempted to morph it into some other level of labeling requirements that it was never intentionally designed for. So a lot of fire departments and municipalities require employers to use the NFPA diamond system on the outside of their buildings. And there’s good reason to use that.
Roy: For labeling, as far as chemical secondary containers or primary containers on an individual level, in most instances, the NFPA diamond in and of itself would not meet the labeling requirements of the hazard communication standard or pesticides or any of those kinds of things. So, it doesn’t typically provide sufficient information on its own to meet those requirements.
Dan: Mm-hm. But is it ok to have the HazCom label and the NFPA diamond? You know, the fire department comes in, they see the diamond label on the chemical tank. But the HazCom label is also there for the employees.
Roy: Well, one of the problems is that the pictograms and the numbers that are used on the NFPA diamond . . .
Roy: And the GHS, global harmonization HazCom program are not the same.
Dan: They’re opposite!
Roy: They don’t mean the same thing. So, I think it’s confusing if you use the NFPA diamond for individual chemical labeling.
Roy: As it was intended to be used on buildings and facilities as a general warning for folks. That’s exactly what was designed to do. It doesn’t provide sufficient information on its own to meet the GHS labeling requirements.
Roy: It won’t on its own. As a supplement, you could. But there’s a big risk of people misreading them because the pictograms are different. The numbers are different. Things mean different things and I think it just adds more confusion if people use it for what it wasn’t really intended for.
Dan: So, just leave the NFPA diamond on the outside of the building, and the rest of the building should be GHS HazCom.
Roy: Right. For primary containers, secondary containers—we’re talking of chemicals and usage—that really should be to GHS and the HazCom requirements, rather than the NFPA.
Dan: Okay, good. Next. Although confined space labeling isn’t required, do you suggest companies do it anyway?
Roy: Well, again, (laugh) the labeling is not explicitly required, but I believe most safety professionals would recommend that employers do label them so that anyone who tries to access, or works around it, knows that it is a confined space. It helps them to identify hazards within those and associated with confined spaces.
The rule, as it stands, is not specifically require labeling, as you had indicated. But, I think, from a safety and health professional standpoint, some type of labeling would be helpful or beneficial.
Dan: Okay. Next. Do arc flash labels need the actual calculations or can you just say that the presence of an arc flash hazard exists?
Roy: Well, again, our rule does not specifically require labeling along those lines. That comes from the NFPA 70E.
Roy: Basically, NFPA 70E says that you have to identify arc flash hazards, and one of the ways to do that is to put an arc flash label on there.
Any additional information that is provided on the label is helpful to authorized employees so they can know what the established potential effect is for an arc flash. That would be one piece of information might be on there. Then, arc flash boundary. In other words, how far do you have to have people away to protect them while you’re opening or working on this? You remove the dead front, whatever it is. And then, that also lets the qualified person know what level of personal protective equipment is needed to work on that individual piece of machinery.
So the specifics are not required to be on the label themselves but, from my perspective, very helpful to have that because it conveys good information to staff that are to be working on it.
Dan: It can only help.
Roy: We like to say that. And, if it’s correct information, yes. It can only help. If it’s not correct information, it may actually cause more issues. But, that’s with any labeling process. It’s only good as the information that’s put on there.
Dan: Oh, sure.
Roy: The effort it takes to do it.
Dan: Right, exactly. And the last question is about the Rule of 10. There’s a lot of rumor out there about that being a real rule. Is a company too small to fall under OSHA’s purview?
Roy: Well, I think the answer to that is: there’s not really a Rule of 10.
Roy: There seems to be some level of confusion within this, and part of that, I believe, comes in with record-keeping. In the record-keeping rule, it specifically mentions that if you have fewer than 10 employees anytime within the year, you are not required to do the record-keeping rule—the requirements within the record-keeping rule.
Some rules and regulations may not apply to employers that have agriculture. If you’re less than 10 in the federal system, ag, you’re not covered under federal OSHA’s rules.
Roy: That is a specific example. There are other emphasis programs or specialty types of scheduling lists that federal OSHA may put together where they may specify the size of employees or size of employer that they’re going to target. But, as a specific Rule of 10, in the general sense, it is very specific to certain operations or certain types of industries.
Dan: Ahh, okay. I, kind of, alluded to this earlier. Have you ever seen safety violations that were so bad that you actually had to go ask an owner to shut down a portion of the facility during a consultation?
Roy: I have had experiences where I have noticed imminent—identified—imminent danger types of situations. My experience with those has been in two different instances. When I brought it up to the owner’s attention they voluntarily shut down that piece of the operation, removed employees from that exposure and corrected it.
Dan: Well, good.
Roy: My personal experience is that employers don’t intentionally set out to harm or hurt employees.
Roy: And, normally, once you point something out like that, that is a serious issue or serious hazard, they’re more than willing to address it because they don’t want to injure their employees.
Roy: From a consultant’s standpoint, we’re in there. We have a different relationship. We’re working with the employer. They’ve asked us to come in there. A completely different relationship than enforcement has with an employer.
Roy: They’re asking us to help them provide suggestions, provide guidelines. “How do we fix this, how do we take care of that?” It’s a much easier, nicer place to be from a consultative standpoint. And, in turn, people—the majority, from what I have found—really appreciate what we do and what we can provide for them, and take what we tell them to heart.
Dan: Oh, good. For the most part, any boss that I ever had always put employee safety first.
Roy: Right. You know, and most employers are small employers. They have less than 20 or 80 employees. A lot of our employers have 2 to 3.
Roy: Our goal, from a consultative standpoint, anyone who calls us, we will try and provide help for.
Roy: You have employees. You’re going to start a business. You know, you want to know what the rule requirements are.
We are here to help employers.
That’s what I get out of our job and my level of satisfaction is knowing that I have a group of professional staff out there to provide assistance and help to employers and all they have to do is ask for it.
Dan: Well, I was just going to ask you if you had any final thoughts on OSHA consultations but I think you just answered it.
Roy: (laughs) Well, I firmly believe in what we do, the mission that we have to help and serve employers, help them identify hazards, recognize what they are and help them become self-sufficient in managing their safety and health programs.
It’s a systemic type of an approach and I believe very firmly in what we do and encourage anyone who has questions or wants to know more about it to give us a call. Visit our website. Take some level of action to be proactive. We will get out there and help them as soon as we possibly can.
Dan: Should company owners and managers just contact their own state’s OSHA office or should they reach out to the regional office of federal OSHA?
Roy: If you go to federal OSHA’s website and you look at the consultative services, it actually gives a map of the United States and tells you where each regional area or consultative services are for that. And it gives you a direct link to that service.
Dan: Oh, good. Okay. That sounds like your tax dollars at work there.
Roy: Yeah it’s, kind of, one of the best kept secrets. We get a lot of employers say “Well, we didn’t know you had the service.”
Part of my job is to make sure as many people as I can know about it.
Dan: Oh. Okay.
Roy: Nationwide, all consultative programs are basically doing the same kinds of things. Any of your local OSHA websites, if you have a state program, will have a listing for their consultative services, as well as a federal site lists all of them.
I get phone calls, probably two or three a week, from Washington DC, from federal OSHA, saying “I have somebody on the line who’s requesting a consultative services can you take their call?”
Dan: Oh, great.
Roy: And I go “Sure!” (laughs)
Dan: And then they route the call to you.
Roy: They will, actually, route the call back to us. That is correct.
Dan: Well, I guess they just don’t want to deal with it and they want to have somebody that knows what they’re doing talk to them, huh?
Roy: I’m. . . we’re here for you.
Dan: (laughs) Okay.
Roy: (laughs) You know, hey, we have very good, professional group of staff that we can address health issues, from industrial hygiene standpoint. We can address safety issues, whether it’s in general industry, construction, logging, agriculture. We have professionals in each one of those groups. And safety people can do all kinds of things. We also have ergonomists. They can help employers address ergonomic-related issues. We really do, it’s a full-service process that we have.
Dan: I’m going to have to make an appointment with you, because I have mouse and keyboard and carpal tunnel issues.
Roy: (laughs) Well, those are easy processes we can help with. What most employers don’t realize is a lot of comp insurance carriers will help with that same issue.
Dan: Oh! Good.
Roy: You can call your comp insurance carrier and say “Hey, here it is.” And there’s a lot of information available online, as far as training for employers and employees. Whoever wants it.
Dan: And the federal website is OSHA.gov.
Roy: That is correct.
Dan: In the right column, titled “How To,” there is a listing for the consultation service.
Roy: OSHA’s free “On-Site Consultation Program For Small Employers.” It’s on the right-hand sidebar.
Roy: It’s all public domain.
Dan: Alright. We will put that in the transcript of this podcast.
Roy: (laughs) Okay.
Dan: That’s the way . . .
Roy: It is a really. . . there’s is a wealth of information out there on the web that deals with occupational safety and health, and consultative services too.
Dan: Okay, great. Well, thanks very much, Roy, for taking part in the interview today.
Roy: My pleasure, Dan. It’s been fun.
Dan: Our guest has been Roy Kroker, Consultation Manager for OSHA, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. I’m Dan Clark.
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Brandon: Thank you for joining us on Safety Experts Talk. If you have suggestions for future podcasts, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more safety experts talking about safety news, OSHA regulations, PPE, lean, 5S, or Continuous Improvement, go to CreativeSafetySupply.com/podcast.