The Checker Blog

Don't Wait For Problems - Solve Them!

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Tue, Apr 03, 2018 @ 10:02 AM

 

safety-shoes“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” may be a wise saying in many cases. But not if it’s taken to mean, “If it ain’t broke, don’t do anything to it.”

Reactive maintenance—waiting for vehicles or equipment to break down before giving them maintenance attention—is clearly not the smart strategy. The short-term cost of providing routine, proactive preventive maintenance is almost always negligible compared to the costs of an on-the-job breakdown.

Just think about the last major breakdown your company had. Did you have any of these costs associated with it:

  • a more-expensive repair than if the problem had been detected earlier?
  • damage that could have been prevented?
  • production downtime?
  • overtime for repair or catching operations up to schedule?
  • penalties for falling behind schedule?
  • replacement equipment?
  • lost opportunity for other work?

Wouldn’t it have been far less expensive if you had detected the problem that caused the breakdown before the equipment broke down?

And preventive maintenance has other benefits in addition to minimizing the disruptions of breakdowns. Preventive maintenance also helps reduce costs by:

  • extending the useful life of assets
  • increasing energy efficiency
  • minimizing the risk of non-compliance with health and safety regulations
  • enabling lower-cost, bulk procurement of spare parts in advance
  • allowing for the alignment of scheduled maintenance with downtime and slower production periods.

If you do an honest assessment of your maintenance program and determine it’s mostly reactive, the good news is that you have an ideal opportunity to significantly improve your business.

 

The Role of Inspections

As you seek to lower maintenance costs with a preventive strategy, it’s important to understand that preventive maintenance involves more than the maintenance department. Preventive maintenance requires company-wide policies and processes that identify issues before they escalate into more-costly problems.

Audits and inspections are a primary component of this proactive approach. Not only do they identify defects earlier than waiting for a breakdown, they provide insight into the cause of recurring problems so they can be corrected (e.g., if defects repeatedly occur after a specific operation, you can look to determine if there’s a way to improve the operation to prevent the defects from occurring).  

Inspection checklists are a tool that empowers all personnel responsible for inspecting assets to play a vital role in preventive maintenance. Checklists such as those in The Checker inspection books or The Checker Software guide personnel as they conduct inspections, ensuring that they check everything that needs to be inspected. All defects will be discovered early, when they can be addressed less expensively.

The Role of Management

Management support of preventive maintenance is essential for the strategy to work. Preventive policies and procedures must be followed, and without management support that adherence becomes far less likely. For example, if personnel aren’t mandated to correctly complete inspection checklists, there’s a good chance they won’t.

Unfortunately, management often views maintenance as a cost—not as an opportunity to cut costs. This view leads to short-sighted decisions such as cutting the current maintenance budget rather than seeking a solution to permanently lower maintenance costs.

On the other hand, management that understands the long-term cost savings of preventive maintenance can give their company a meaningful competitive advantage over companies still in a reactive mode.

Takeaway

Reactive maintenance results in costs that could be avoided. Preventive maintenance tools such as inspection checklists help a company eliminate these costs and run a more-efficient maintenance program.

Topics: safety audits, inspections and profitability, workplace safety, OSHA, audit software

If an Inspection Needs to Be Done, Do It!

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 @ 03:06 PM

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Audits and inspections keep people safe and help businesses run more efficiently, and so we want to encourage our customers to do more of them … not less.

That’s why we when we sell The Checker Software audit/inspection checklists, we don’t charge in the traditional way—per checklist used. This pricing model disincentives organizations from doing all the inspections they should be doing. That’s the last thing we want to do.

Instead, with The Checker Software, you can use as many of our checklists as you need, at no extra cost for each checklist (up to a maximum limit that makes sense for your business).

The cost of checklists is minimal compared with the benefits derived, but nonetheless, we don’t want anyone to cut back on audits and inspections to save money in the short-term. Our goal is to help our customers succeed, so we want them to do being conducting all the audits and inspections they need to be.

With The Checker Software, you can also add as many users as required, with no extra cost per user. If someone needs access, they can have it without any concern about extra spend.

We believe this approach to pricing is consistent with our mission to promote the use of audits and inspections to increase safety, reduce risk, lower insurance premiums, lower maintenance costs, and provide multiple other business benefits.

Takeaway

With The Checker Software, you never have to worry about cost when deciding whether to conduct an audit or inspection that should be done.

Topics: safety audits, inspections and profitability, workplace safety, OSHA, audit software

Safety Regulators Aren’t Playing Around About Workplace Safety

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Mar 12, 2018 @ 12:05 PM

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How serious is workplace safety becoming? 

Well, it’s always been serious, because human lives and welfares are at stake. But now it’s becoming an increasingly serious business risk. 

Starting just a few months ago (Dec. 14, 2017), Ontario increased the maximum fines for failing to meet workplace health and standards from $500,000 to $1.5 million for corporations. (For individuals and unincorporated businesses, the increase was from $25,000 to $100,000.) 

In Ontario, any fine issued—including Ministry of Labour penalties—is also accompanied by a Victim of Crime surcharge, which is 25 percent of any fine more than $1,000. So, the $ 1.5 million maximum corporate fine would actually be $1.875 million. 

That’s serious money! 

Realistically, fines for an offence under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (or under U.S. OSHA) rarely rise to the maximum amount, but the point is made with the increase. The Ontario Ministry of Labour apparently believes fines haven’t been stiff enough.  

So, it’s a fair assumption that all fines will increase, regardless of the severity of the offense. 

The Ministry of Labour has already been active in enforcing safety—conducting more than 79,800 visits to 34,700 workplaces in 2016-17, issuing more than 118,000 orders due to non-compliance. In 2016, the courts imposed more than $11 million in fines, and many businesses aren’t looking forward to the prospect of even higher fines. 

However, Ontario’s action, while it could initially be seen as a threat, is actually good news for businesses that already understand the business value of safety and have been actively seeking to gain it. The risk of higher fines is a competitive disadvantage for their competitors lagging in safety. 

It’s heartening to see the Ministry of Labour take a meaningful step to reinforce the importance of keeping workers and the public safe. 

Our hope is that all companies take notice. Those that do will improve not just safety but their entire business. Those that don’t should be worried because regulators seem resolute in increasing the cost of non-compliance. 

A proven way to improve workplace safety and minimize the risk of regulatory fines is to routinely conduct safety audits and inspections using checklists. The Checker inspection checklist books can be used to guide and document proper audits and inspections—a strong step toward gaining the many business benefits of safety, including compliance. The Checker Software can do the same while also providing the tools to develop a comprehensive audit/inspection program that extracts all the available value from audits and inspections. 

Topics: safety audits, legal compliance, inspections and profitability, workplace safety, OSHA

3 Keys to Preparing for Regulatory Safety Compliance Inspections

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Fri, Jun 03, 2016 @ 03:40 PM

Have you ever tried out a restaurant, and before you even order, you form a bad impression?

Maybe the hostess isn’t friendly, or the place looks dirty, or it takes forever to be waited on. Whatever it is, you’re suddenly not feeling very good about your decision to dine there. Perhaps you caught them on a bad day, but they don’t seem like they’re ready to please customers.

You’re now in a critical mood, and the food’s going to have to be really good to overcome that initial dissatisfaction.

Considering regultory inspectors as members of the same team helps compliance inspections go smoothly.The same dynamic occurs when regulatory inspectors (e.g., OSHA) visit workplaces or job sites to perform safety compliance inspections. They’re professionals, but they’re human, and If their initial impression is a bad one, it can negatively impact how they inspect your premises. Like a customer entering a restaurant for the first time, you want to impress regulators and make them feel welcome.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Making a good first impression isn’t about kissing up and sweeping problems under the rug. Making a good first impression with regulators and having a solid safety compliance program should go hand-in-hand—just as excellent customer service and outstanding food do in five-star restaurants. The impression you give regulators shouldn’t be a mirage; it should genuinely reflect a commitment to safety.

Nonetheless, there are some specific things you can do to get regulatory inspectors on your side from the beginning of an inspection.

1.  Do your own safety audits and inspections.

Voluntary safety audits and inspections—from regular equipment inspections to job-site risk assessments to safety audits of entire facilities—demonstrate to regulators that your organization “gets it” when it comes to safety. If it’s obvious you’re checking yourself, regulators will be pleased.

This is only one of the many business benefits of voluntary audits, inspections and other safety initiatives, but it’s a nice one to have when regulators show up at your door!

2.  Have all your safety documentation readily available.

Regulatory inspectors will want to see documentation of items such as:

  • Safety and health policies, including your safety manual
  • Safety training
  • Equipment inspection records
  • A history of injuries and illnesses
  • Results of any self-audits that have been conducted
  • Any proactive steps taken to abate hazards
  • Steps taken to correct previous violations.

You’ll need to have this documentation archived, organized, and ready for quick dissemination to regulators. You’re not going to look like you’re on top of safety if you have to scramble to find these items or can’t locate some of them.

Having all these records readily available in the proper form is possible using manual paper documentation and spreadsheets, but organizations are increasingly choosing to use more cost-effective software solutions, such as The Checker Software. Audit/inspection software can not only increase the efficiency of your self-inspecting, it can significantly lower the labor cost of managing safety data, as well as make it much easier and faster to provide regulators with the information they want.

3.  Be friendly with regulatory safety inspectors—you’re on the same side!

Politeness and a friendly attitude go a long way toward making a regulatory inspection a positive experience. It’s not smart to make inspectors feel like they’re intruding on your territory and needlessly inconveniencing you. And why would you want to do that anyway? After all, you both have the same goal—to promote safety in the workplace.

When you treat regulators as teammates in the fight against occupational injuries, they’re much more likely to treat you in that way as well. Even the most diligent organizations can sometimes have lapses, and regulators often are faced with judgment calls about whether to simply make a comment, provide a written warning, or cite you. In such situations, you want them thinking about you as a teammate, not as an antagonist.

Takeaway

The best preparation for a regulatory safety compliance inspection is to have an ongoing, proactive safety program that includes voluntary self-inspections and safety audits. That way, you can be confident you’re in compliance. But even the safest of companies can benefit from impressing inspectors by having all their safety documentation readily available for review when inspectors show up. Treating inspectors cordially and with respect also doesn’t hurt!

Topics: safety management, OSHA, legal compliance

New Rules Will Change What Must Be Reported to OSHA

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 @ 07:12 AM

All U.S. businesses should be aware of new OSHA incident reporting requirements that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Adjustments of OSHA-notification policies will be necessary to comply with the new rules.

The major change relates to reporting hospitalizations due to workplace accidents. Previously, companies only had to report to OSHA when three or more people were hospitalized. Under the new requirements, companies will have to report all hospitalizations. 

OSHA is changing its requirements for reporting hospitalizations due to occupational injuries.OSHA has relaxed the time period for reporting hospitalizations from eight hours to 24 hours, but the new rules clearly put more responsibility on businesses because of the lowering of the number of hospitalizations that necessitate a report. No serious workplace incidents will escape the attention of OSHA.

In addition, the new rules specify that any work-related amputations or eye losses—even in some circumstance that doesn’t involve hospitalizationmust be reported within 24 hours.

The rules for reporting work-related fatalities remain the same—each death must be reported within eight hours.

The Jan. 1 effective date applies to employers under Federal OSHA's jurisdiction. Companies in a state with a state-run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date.

You have three options for reporting to OSHA:

For more information about the changes, visit OSHA's web page on the updated reporting requirements and watch OSHA’s YouTube video, where Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, explains the new reporting requirements.

OSHA will also be on Twitter today from 1-2 pm EST to answer questions about the new rules. Use the hashtag #Reporting2015 to participate and follow the conversation.

Takeaway

Adhering to the new OSHA rules won’t be difficult, but it will require adjusting of reporting policies to comply with the new rules. Failing to make these simple policy adjustments will leave you vulnerable to OSHA fines, so do it before the New Year hits!

Topics: safety management, OSHA

Want to Be Ready for an OSHA Inspection? Inspect Yourself.

Posted by Chris Hubbard on Thu, May 29, 2014 @ 09:04 AM

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is big on “good faith.”

In business law, “good faith” basically means a genuine intention to deal fairly with others in commercial transactions. When OSHA compliance officers show up at a jobsite to do an inspection, their idea of good faith is a clear effort by the company to be safe.

Regular safety inspections using inspection checklists can show good faith to OSHA inspectors.Even if violations are found, a good faith effort to be safe can lessen the penalties. This isn’t some unwritten rule. In its guide to OSHA inspections, the agency unambiguously states: “OSHA may adjust a penalty for a serious violation downward based on the employer’s good faith.”

If OSHA inspectors arrive with little or no warning, as they usually do, one very effective way you can demonstrate this good faith is by showing that you systematically insist on regular safety inspections of critical facilities, equipment, and processes.

Why (and How) OSHA Inspects

OSHA doesn’t have enough compliance officers to inspect every business, so they set priorities in this order:

1. Imminent danger—If OSHA becomes aware of hazards that could cause immediate death or serious injury, they will be onsite ASAP to have the hazards fixed or operations stopped.

2. Fatalities and catastrophes—Businesses must report hospitalizations of three or more employees or any death to OSHA within eight hours of the incident, and OSHA will come to investigate.

3. Complaints—Personnel can file anonymous complaints that trigger site inspections.

4. Referrals—Other federal, state, or local agencies (or the media!) can contact OSHA and recommend an inspection.

5. Follow-ups—In some cases, OSHA will return to ensure violations have been abated.

6. Planned or programmed investigationsLastly, OSHA targets specific industries or individual businesses that have a history of high injury and illness rates.

When OSHA decides to inspect, they aren’t required to give notice, and even if they do, it’s usually less than 24 hours. OSHA inspectors aren’t stupid; they want to check the workplace without giving unscrupulous businesses time to temporarily hide problems.

A Proactive Inspection Program Show Sincerity

OSHA is used to catching businesses with their “pants down,” so when they show up and you can immediately provide evidence of regular inspections—beyond what’s required by law—they know you’re serious about safety and not just running around posting up the required OSHA signs at the last minute.

You’re showing them the “good faith” that will mitigate any violations the OSHA inspectors might find. In fact, OSHA may not even penalize you if you’ve shown good faith and immediately fix minor violations.

But they’re not going to take your word for it. You have to be able to provide actual documentation to prove that you have a solid, proactive inspection program in place. That’s one of the many benefits of The Checker—whether you’re using paper or our mobile solution, the documentation is in one place, organized for easy retrieval and review.

 “We use The Checker” is the right thing to say when you have an OSHA inspector at your door!

 

Image courtesy of U.S. Corps of Engineers, Creative Commons.

Topics: why inspect?, workplace safety, OSHA