I know many shop owners who have greatly reduced penalties by appealing. It's worth the effort.
Can I avoid an OSHA inspection?
The answer to this question is yes and no. OSHA has a program known as volunteer compliance. Under this program, you simply call OSHA and request an inspection so you can find out what needs done to be compliant. Under the OSHA rules they usually cannot fine you for what they find. However if you don't remedy the findings, you could get fined. I know several shops that have opted for this program and have been successful. It's better to call them first than to have them pull a surprise inspection that could be costly. On the other hand, if you are not prepared to comply, calling OSHA is like calling the IRS to tell them you don't think you paid enough taxes.
Unfortunately, OSHA's rules and guidelines are not specific for the stone, engineered stone or solid surface industry. Sometimes these rules are not clear. However the following are some specific issues you should address in your shop.
MSDS — you will not only need material safety data sheets (MSDS) for all glues, solvents, etc., but also for any stone, engineered stone or solid surface product around your shop. An MSDS for any product is available from the manufacturer. In the case of natural stone, the International Stone Institute has them on its Web site.
Storage of Solvents and Chemicals — I am surprised at how many shops store glues and solvents on a bench or storage shelf. Even worse, I have seen glues and solvents next to propane torches in use! All glues and solvents should be stored in a fireproof cabinet.
Grinder and Polisher Guards — Most shops get busted in this area. While most grinders and saws require a blade guard, it is unclear if polishers require one. I have seen many shops fined that had no polisher guards. Most of us in the industry know that it is nearly impossible to operate a polisher with a guard on it. There are several people including myself who are working with OSHA to try and get a variance on this rule.
Silica Dust — Granite and engineered stone contain quartz, which will produce silica-borne dust. Silica dust is harmful and will eventually cause Silicosis, which can result in lung damage and death. OSHA is a stickler for compliance in this area, and it is an area that many shops fail. If you do dry cutting, you need to have employees wear protective gear, such as respirators, and you need an air entrapment system. One way around this is to do everything wet so the silica dust is contained and is not an issue. However, I know of at least two shops that have high silica dust even though they do everything wet. The reason is that they failed to hose the floor down on a daily basis. Once the water that contains the silica dries, simply walking across the floor can kick up the dust.
Slab Storage — One area where OSHA has busted stone and E-stone shops is the way their slabs are stored. Many A-frames are overloaded, unbalanced and are in jeopardy of falling over. There have been many cases where slabs have fallen over on workers and customers, resulting in injury and death. In almost all the shops I have visited, none of the slabs are tied down. I would recommend that all slabs be stored on well constructed A-frames or slab racks and that each A-frame be equipped with straps to tie the slabs down so they don't fall over.