As the busy owner of a practice focused on patient health, you might find it easy to overlook the importance of a safe workplace.
Although chiropractic offices are relatively low-risk work environments, workers can still get sick or hurt on the job.
Over the past decade, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of safety complaints about chiropractic offices that were investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) involved alleged health violations.1
The remaining investigations dealt with potential safety violations.
Seventy one percent of all investigations were initiated by complaints from either employees or patrons. In almost all instances over the past 10 years, the business owners were not informed of the OSHA inspections before they occurred.
To keep workers safe, OHSA mandates that all business owners provide their employees with working conditions that are free from known dangers.2
Failure to comply with OSHA standards can have serious repercussions. Penalties for violations can be steep, ranging from $12,675 per violation up to 10 times that amount for willful or repeated violations.3
OSHA prioritizes inspections for high-risk workplaces and those where employees have lodged a formal complaint. However, that does not preclude lower-risk environments from being inspected at any time and for a range of reasons. Even the most meticulous, well-run chiropractic or medical office is a potential candidate for an OSHA inspection. Because an investigation can happen at any time, it is important to be prepared and stay on top of changing regulations.
Here are four things to expect during an OSHA inspection:
- Walk-ins OSHA is not required to give advance notice of an inspection or an investigation, and it rarely does. In situations presenting imminent danger, OSHA may provide notice to expedite the inspection process and get the hazard addressed immediately. However, in most cases, OSHA will either investigate complaints by phone or dispatch inspectors to conduct an in-person surprise visit.
- On With permission from the complainant, OSHA may call the business to describe the complaint and follow up with requests for written details about the alleged hazards. If an office receives an inquiry from OSHA, it is required to respond in writing within five working days. Potential hazards must be identified in the response along with corrective actions that have been taken to address the issue. If the response is timely and adequate, and the complainant is satisfied with it, OSHA will likely not conduct an on-site inspection.
- A walk-around is part of the assessment. When an OSHA compliance officer arrives on site for an inspection, he or she will take a tour of the workplace to inspect for potential hazards that could result in an injury or illness. The employer may accompany the compliance officer on the tour and ask questions throughout the inspection. It also is recommended that the employer take detailed notes during this time. The walk-around can take place over several hours, days, or weeks, depending on the nature of the inspection.
- Making an adjustment. Following the walk-around, the OSHA compliance officer will discuss his or her findings and present any violations, potential fees, and deadlines. The officer also will review solutions that must be implemented to address any identified hazards.
If OSHA issues a citation and collects financial penalties, it must do so within six months of the violation’s occurrence. Employers have 15 working days to challenge alleged violations and penalties by writing to the OSHA area director. Appeals are reviewed by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA’s primary goal is to maintain safe working conditions for employees. It offers many resources to help chiropractic offices and other medical businesses identify and remedy potential hazards, and establish effective workplace safety policies.
By emphasizing a culture of safety, conducting ongoing safety training, and following OSHA’s requirements, you can help keep your employees safe from harm and your practice free from penalties. Additional information on creating a safe and healthy workplace is available by contacting OSHA or insurance carriers.
David Quezada is vice president of Loss Control Services for EMPLOYERS, a small business insurance specialist. In Nevada, workers’ compensation insurance and services are offered through Employers Insurance Company of Nevada, Employers Compensation Insurance Company, Employers Preferred Insurance Company, and Employers Assurance Company. EIG Services, Inc., is an affiliated agency and adjuster. Not all insurers do business in all jurisdictions. For more information, visit employers.com.
1 “Industry SIC Search Results.” United States Department of Labor. www.osha.gov/pls/imis/ industry.search. Accessed Sept. 9, 2017.
2 “Employer Responsibilities.” United States Department of Labor. www.osha.gov/as/opa/ worker/employer-responsibility.html. Accesse Sept. 9, 2017.
3 “OSHA Penalties.” United States Department of Labor. www.osha.gov/penalties. Accessed Sept. 9, 2017.