Effective workplace safety and health programs, now regarded as essential, have numerous “bottom line” benefits. Yet, despite employers’ best efforts to prevent accidents, they still occur — fires, explosions, chemical spills, releases of toxic gases. Frequently, accidents involving injuries and fatalities invite attention by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor). Planning for the unthinkable is a reality for all employers, even those not generally regarded as “high risk.” Having a plan of action for responding to the crisis is essential.

After the initial crisis has passed, a company will need to concentrate on handling the aftermath. If employee injuries or fatalities are involved, this will place the employer under OSHA’s scrutiny. An OSHA inspection will commence immediately. Its procedures for conducting fatality/catastrophe investigations (and responding to events of potentially catastrophic significance) are described in OSHA Instruction CPL 02-00-137 (2005; Fatality/Catastrophe Inspection Procedures), OSHA Instruction CPL 02-00-103 (“Field Inspection Reference Manual”), Ch. II.B.2 (1994) and OSHA Instruction CPL 02-00-94 (1991). The company’s designated representative should participate in the opening conference and the walk-around that follows. The employees’ bargaining representative — even when the employees are on strike — has a right to accompany the inspector. In re Establishment Inspection of Caterpillar, Inc., 55 F.3d 334 (7th Cir. 1995).

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