5 Ways To Crush OSHA Fines With A CMMS

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Halloween’s in a few weeks, but I’m already celebrating. I’ve already decorated my office, I’ve already rewatched Blair Witch Project, and I may or may not be considering “Hogwarts dropout” as my Halloween costume.

5_Ways_to_Crush_OSHA_fines

What can I say? I like to be scared.

But there’s a kind of scared that no one likes: the feeling you get when your plant or facility is slammed with OSHA fines. I imagine it’s akin to that cold rush you get when you realize you’ve forgotten something until the due date. Or, since it’s Halloween, let’s say it’s like the feeling you get when things go too well at a horror movie’s climax. You know something else must be coming…

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To avoid that creeping feeling, I’ve found five ways to crush OSHA fines with a computerized maintenance management system (or CMMS). If you fear hearing “if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen” from auditors, then a CMMS is your protection from the monster of fines.

HERE WITH YOUR SURPRISE AUDIT SIR

HERE WITH YOUR SURPRISE AUDIT SIR

OSHA Fines 2016

As of August 2nd, OSHA increased fines for serious or other-than-serious violations, and willful or repeated violations, by 56%. It’s the first time they’ve done so in over 20 years.

A repeated violation fine used to be $70,000.

Now? It’s $124,709. That’s a little over twice of what it cost to make The Blair Witch Project.

To provide some further reference, here’s a Porsche that starts at $122,000.

To provide some further reference, here’s a Porsche that starts at $122,000.

Let me really scare you by putting that in perspective. The median salary for an assembly line worker in 2015 was $39,600. One repeat violation fine costs about three workers’ yearly salaries.  

Still not scared? Money’s only part of what’s so frightening.

According to Michael Rubin of Goldberg Segalla LLP, OSHA’s into shaming. Before the case regarding your violation is even adjudicated, OSHA will have issued a press release” about your wrongdoing. Even if that “wrongdoing” has not yet been established in a court of law. The result could be a PR nightmare, and the lost sales that result because of it.

Think of OSHA’s current increases-and-shaming strategy as a one-two punch. Again, it’s like the fake endings you get in a lot of horror movies: think you’re ok? SURPRISE SCARE! Got away on the shuttle? The alien’s there, too.

Alien came out in 1979, so I don’t think this is a spoiler

Alien came out in 1979, so I don’t think this is a spoiler

Killed Freddy Krueger? Nope, he’s now your convertible.

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Think Michael Myers is dead? You should know where I’m going with this by now.

To avoid that combination, here are five ways you can crush OSHA fines with a CMMS.  

OSHA Lockout and Tagout Fines

Lockout/tagout fines were OSHA’s fifth most frequently cited violation for 2015, so the odds are good you might encounter one.

Or, you could avoid it with CMMS.

I asked Rona Palmer of eMaint about avoiding lockout and tagout issues. She says, “One very ‘common use case’ for computer maintenance management software is electric lockout and tagout. Before equipment can be serviced, [technicians] have the ability to print the work order, so they’ve got a print-out with the accompanying lockout/tagout procedure.” The result? Rather than confusion over whether an expensive, hazardous asset is turned off, lockout is included as part of the repair process.

There are times, however, when you want the electricity left on.

There are times, however, when you want the electricity left on.

Master NSF Standards

Ryan Chan of Upkeep describes how a CMMS can help you maintain NSF standards. “If you know there’s a spill,” rather than checking the specific NSF standard, you can “scan a barcode over inventory to pull up info about it.” Checking the necessary standards for a material’s clean up becomes as simple as scanning a QR code.

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“Taking it a step further, you can load the NSF sheet into Upkeep, so when you scan the barcode, you don’t have to look for the right sheet in the big NSF book.” Instead of spending time checking and re-checking to make sure you’ve got the right requirements, your CMMS app can give you immediate, actionable info, reducing the downtime caused by clean up.

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If It Isn’t Recorded, It Didn’t Happen

The more thorough and specific you are with your reporting, the less likely a surprise audit will find fault, and cost money. A good CMMS makes recording easy and precise.

Paul Lachance notes how a CMMS can help you handle random OSHA audits: “CMMSs can give maintenance and safety managers the ability to show strong record keeping… in report form, sorted by asset, repair technician, safety standard, etc.” Instead of fumbling through papers to find records of who fixed what, when, you can pull out your phone and show auditors the info they need. It makes compliance as easy as showing someone a cat video, though I wouldn’t recommend you do that with the OSHA auditors.

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If there’s an incident, specific instructions can be entered into the CMMS. “Your CMMS doesn’t only tell you to go check something. You can have very specific notes and details, even photos showing the condition you need to leave an asset in,” says Rona Palmer. As a result, you avoid any confusion on your technicians’ part, and show auditors the depth of your recording when, or if, they show up.

Connect with the Internet of Things

One future feature Upkeep is actively working on is connectivity with the various sensors in factories and processing plants. “The future’s in connected buildings,” Ryan Chan says, “in smart sensors within the building, so in the off chance that there’s a leak, or that ventilation isn’t working properly, sensors can fire off alarms and alert people to what’s wrong.”

Where might CMMS fit in with this? A CMMS that can “speak” to those sensors could alert workers as soon as something’s off. In the same way apps on your phone send you alerts and push notifications, a CMMS could provide a “notification when a clean room goes below 70 or above 90 degrees,” as one example.

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A CMMS could also create a work order which the technician would get on their phone. Chan notes that these notifications aren’t perfect yet, but it is something Upkeep “is actively working on right now.” It’s worth asking your a potential CMMS what sort of IoT capabilities their system possesses.

Go beyond OSHA

The best way to avoid OSHA fines is to go beyond OSHA’s minimum standards.

Rona Palmer explained the importance of safety to many asset management professionals. “Most of the clients I speak to bring up safety as a core concern, whether it’s in their title or not.” For many of eMaint’s clients, “OSHA standards are only minimal standards.” Safety-minded companies “take government standards as a starting point, and it’s their mission to have most reliable equipment.” For some companies, “ their whole safety team defined as an asset.”

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A CMMS can optimize this proactive safety strategy. Though safety isn’t always the primary reason behind purchasing a CMMS, Palmer says that when eMaint talks to customers, “people find compliance as an added benefit of CMMS, and are thrilled.”

There are numerous ways to use a CMMS in your safety strategy. “You’re only limited by your imagination,” Palmer says. Some users program reminders that display alerts “if a safety work order goes past due.” Other customers use the CMMS to categorize safety separate from other types of work orders. Work orders often come in from various sites and people, so adding a “prioritize safety” rule helps maintenance engineers attend to the important things first.

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And, of course, a CMMS can make you as efficient at safety as you are at other tasks. Work order management is the purpose behind a lot of CMMS purchases, and managing safety inspections in the same way makes them easy to remember, and also helps make safety as much a regular part of the culture as any other task.

OSHA Fines Defeated

The right CMMS can help you beat the monster of OSHA fines, and send the specter of lost money away.

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How has your company used CMMS to crush OSHA fines? I’d love to know— add your instances to the ones listed above in the comments!

What’s even more useful: if your CMMS has helped you avoid the hike in OSHA’s fines, tell people about it in a review of your software.

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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About the Author

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Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe is a former Capterra analyst.

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