We received a call recently from the owner of a small manufacturer which was unlike any call I’d ever received before, for several reasons.
The person started by explaining that they had been inspected by OSHA the previous day, and had just received an emailed letter from the inspector which contained 24 issues that required response within 7 days.
Given our experience dealing with OSHA enforcement, I was very surprised to hear that the inspector was asking about 24 issues.
Normally when companies contact us after an OSHA inspection, it’s for a few violations, but never 24.
This doesn’t sound at all good, I thought to myself.
Surprisingly the caller didn’t seem too worried as they casually said, “we don’t have any of these things in place, and I just need to know how much it would cost to fix everything.”
“We’ve been in business for over 30 years and this is the first time we’ve been inspected. This is ridiculous, why do they pick on small businesses?” they asked.
It seemed as if the person thought this was nothing more than a “speeding ticket” or simple notification that they needed to update their safety program…..
I gulped, and then asked if they could scan and email the letter to me, and promised I’d call them right back with suggestions.
As I began reading the letter, the magnitude of the situation became clear.
It was a laundry list of virtually all OSHA standards that apply to a typical manufacturer, including Lockout/Tagout, PPE, Respiratory Protection, Hearing Conservation, Hazard Communication, etc.
Our audit services include estimating OSHA fine liabilities, and it looked to me like this one could end up being somewhere between $120,000 – $180,000 or even higher, especially if OSHA claimed any Willful violations.
I began wondering how I was going to explain how bad this situation was to the person.
It was almost 5pm, so I just picked up the phone and called them back…
They answered quickly and as I started to explain what was going on, and that heavy fines would likely result, the person blurted out “what kind of fines are we talking about? Like $50,000? That would put us out of business!”
They got very stressed and agitated and started railing, “this is unfair, why don’t they pick on large companies, small businesses like mine shouldn’t be fined, it’s unfair….!”
I tried to continue explaining what was going on, but the person suddenly hung up on me.
The hang-up didn’t surprise or upset me, I could only imagine how shocked and blind-sided they must have felt, not to mention how they were going to deal with the aftermath.
They had claimed that a $50k fine would shut down the business, but this fine could end up being much higher…. Would it really shut down their business I wondered?
Earlier in our conversation, the person mentioned that they had received emails from our company in the past talking about the potentially devastating risks associated with failing to manage OSHA compliance.
Apparently they searched for one of those past emails when they received the inspector’s letter, and that’s how they got our phone number.
I don’t mean to embarrass this person or their company, and will not include any names, but wanted to distribute this email as yet another cautionary warning to manufacturers who know they’re out of OSHA compliance or aren’t sure. These kinds of inspections and huge fines happen to small manufacturers every day across Texas and across the country.
Don’t be the next one….
If you’re unsure of your compliance condition, take action before it’s too late.
Call Us At 512-457-0374
(See A Redacted Copy Of The Actual Letter Below)