Most OSHA inspections in healthcare practices are brought about by employee complaints and can be preventable. You may think that disgruntled ex-employees are doing the reporting. That does happen frequently, but OSHA is aware of these kinds of retaliatory complaints and weighs that factor into their determination on whether to send you a letter or to show up for an inspection. However, OSHA will always give its attention to a current employee making the complaint. You may be surprised to learn that it is most often your best employee who makes the complaint that leads to an inspection.
Why would your good employees “stab you in the back” like that? Usually, it is because of one of these reasons:
- The employee raised concerns to you but feels ignored and frustrated.
- You have, perhaps unknowingly, created a closed-door atmosphere that discourages employees from raising concerns and offering recommendations.
What can you do to change this dynamic and prevent an OSHA inspection?
- Have a written policy on employee complaints and recommendations in your employee training manuals.
- Create an open-door culture in your practice. Let employees know this is important to you.
- Ensure that the policy aligns with any Human Resource policies you have with your company.
- Make sure you give everyone a copy including managers. Let them know it is important to you.
Most managers are uncomfortable with handling complaints, and this causes avoidance. Here are some recommendations gathered from consulting human resources professionals including a very good article at https://toughnickel.com/business/How-to-Address-Employee-Complaints.
- Ask for something in writing.
- Listen fully to the complaint, even if it seems like a frivolous issue.
- Show respect. Don’t belittle their complaint, question their veracity, or do anything to make them feel like you don’t take the issue seriously.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Who– Who is this situation about? Who was involved? Who witnessed it?
- What– What happened? What else was happening at the time of the incident? What caused the incident? What proof can be provided?
- When– When did the incident take place? When else could this have happened?
- Where– Where did this incident take place? Where else could this have happened? Where exactly were employees at the time of the incident?
- Why– Why did it happen? Why did the employee come forward with this complaint? Why do they think the incident happened?
- How– How are they feeling after this incident? How has this incident affected others? How can you help them? How can this problem be rectified?
- Assure the individual that you will investigate and then take appropriate action as quickly as possible.
- Take the appropriate action regarding the complaint. The action should as quick as possible so there won’t be any future issues. consult a professional if you need advice like your human resources contact or your OSHA consultant depending on the issue.
- Set a timeframe for communicating and notify all involved parties of any delays.
- Refrain from quick disciplinary action against the complaining employee or any person they’re complaining about. Take the time to find out what happened before you take any action.
- Inform the complainant about resolution status but avoid details about other employees.
- If the complaint was unfounded, turn the situation into a training opportunity.
- Look for patterns of the same complaint from the same person or other employees. You may see another issue that needs to be addressed.
- Document. Document.
What NOT to Do When an Employee Complains:
- Make jokes.
- Allow distractions. Instead, turn off your phone and close your office door.
- Make the complaint public.
- Punish the complainant in ANY way. There are very stringent laws on protecting whistleblowers.
The very best thing you can do to prevent an OSHA inspection is to understand their role, show your employees respect, and listen to their concerns. Contact us to get more information about our OSHA expertise and how we can help prevent OSHA inspections in your practice.