Clear, consistent, and organized records are important for maintaining compliance and avoiding future issues. While some regulations require you to keep records for a certain number of years, it is recommended to maintain your records for a minimum of three years.
In short: everything. Include your full inspection report, along with all physical evidence, photographs, narratives from employees, communications with the inspector, and a copy of your visitor’s log from the day of the inspection. If the inspection resulted in a violation, include the process and proof of fixing the non-compliance. If you had to purchase new equipment, include the receipt of purchase and photographs of the installation. When it comes to providing a record of a government inspection, the more detail you can provide, the better. If you aren’t certain whether or not something should be included in your records, go ahead and put it in. It’s better to err on the side of caution and have too much information than risk leaving something important out.
Diligent record keeping can be intimidating, even for the most organized facility manager. Luckily, there are habits you can get into that will ultimately make the process easier.
• Type everything up. Even if a handwritten statement is readable to you now, it might not be as
easily decipherable when you are reviewing the same document two years from now, without the
inspection fresh in your mind. Eliminate the possibility of handwriting confusion and type any important statements.
• Consider going digital. If space is an issue, you can scan in your entire inspection report and keep a digital copy. While you’ll still want to hold on to the physical copies for the minimum length of time, digitizing your records can allow you to more easily store the information you need for longer.
• Make your records easily accessible. You don’t want to have to dig through unlabeled and
unorganized file cabinets. Instead, create a recording keeping storage system that is easy to utilize.
• Include a table of contents. This ensures you’ll always know what everything in the file is and won’t have to wonder where certain pieces and documents came from when you’re reviewing the record after time has passed.
A detailed inspection record can end up benefitting your facility financially or helping you out of a bind. Consider these two scenarios:
• Two years after your first inspection, the inspector returns and believes you have a repeat
violation. However, thanks to your records, you can prove that the first noncompliance was an entirely different issue. This can help prevent a new fine or a more expensive repeat fine.
• Think back to our introductory example. An OSHA compliance officer gives your facility a violation for not having a machine guard on a piece of equipment. You take the proper steps to add the guard and become compliant, but an employee still gets injured operating that machine. In this case, your inspection records could help you avoid a costly lawsuit.
Think of your inspection records as added insurance against future issues. When it comes to avoiding costly fines or potential lawsuits, you can never be too careful. Stay tuned to learn Walden’s best tips for how to prepare for and survive an inspection.
Click here to download our full inspection preparation guide, “When Government Visits: How to Prepare For and Survive an Inspection.”
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