Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The Dangers of 'Speculative' Safety Audits

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The Dangers of 'Speculative' Safety Audits

Article excerpt

Keep potentially damaging, speculative information out of your health and safety audits, warned a prominent labor attorney at the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association annual meeting in New Orleans.

OSHA can look at all the paperwork and results of companies' independent health and safety audits, noted attorney Horace A. "Topper" Thompson III.

It is foolish to include any kind of notations that are "careless, unnecessary, untrue or speculative because those can result in the types of willful violations that can potentially lead to criminal violations under the act," he said.

If a company wants to conduct a forward-looking, excessively critical self-audit in an attempt to eliminate potential hazards, it should consider "encasing" the report in "attorney-client privilege" so it cannot be used as proof of culpability in the future.

"Can any of us really imagine we will encourage our in-plant engineers to go out there and have a thorough brainstorming session if we understand that all the proposals, no matter how outlandish, are going to be subject to subpoena and later used against us to show there was a willful violation of the act?" Thompson asked.

Donald Shalhoub, deputy associate solicitor for OSHA, acknowledged that the agency can subpoena and review any aspect of employer health and safety procedures and internal audits. The agency can also request loss prevention reports, and notes taken after accidents, at health and safety committee meetings and during training sessions. …

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