I have to inspect WHAT?

An insurance agent called me to ask about a letter one of her business clients had received from my former employer, the Workers’ Compensation Administration. The client was upset and confused. The letter was about safety inspections.

I recognized the story immediately: they’re doing the affidavit thing again. Sure enough: the letter advises the business that it is required by New Mexico law to have a safety inspection and that an affidavit must be submitted to the WCA verifying that the inspection was done, under penalty of perjury.

The workers’ comp law says all employers whose annual insurance premium exceeds a certain amount must have a safety inspection every year. The 1990 law required this for employers with a premium of $5,000 or more. That’s been amended to $15,000. The requirement also applies to self-insured employers.

I’m all in favor of safety inspections. I wrote the booklet instructing employers how to conduct such an inspection. Half of the booklet is still on the agency’s website, with minor revisions.

But I have protested the affidavit regulation time after time. When I worked there, I argued against it repeatedly and sometimes won. Last year I submitted an official public comment to my former colleagues.

Back in 1992, somebody said we need to enforce the inspection law. We have to make them tell us they’ve done the inspection by sending us an affidavit. I said that’s ridiculous. Business owners will regard this affidavit as a pain in the neck and we will be turning half the businesses in New Mexico into liars.

The same somebody said, in that case we should make them do it under penalty of perjury. Then we will turn half the businesses in New Mexico into perjurers, I said. This is the kind of stuff that makes businesses hate government.

I said we should do what OSHA does: write a sensible rule that requires employers to keep their own records and to show the record to us if we ask for it.

Back then I prevailed, but the affidavit issue has popped up repeatedly. Some regulatory people can’t resist the heavy hand. The current version of the regulation was adopted last fall.

So the agency is sending out letters telling some businesses they have to have the inspection and send in the affidavit.

Safety inspections are a good practice for most businesses. If your business is big enough to have a $15,000 premium, you probably can get a safety professional to do your inspection courtesy of your insurance company. Or you can call the WCA and a safety consultant will do it for free.

If you’re a small business, you can go to the WCA website, click on the link for safety inspections, find the procedure and do it yourself. The first step is to research your own industry standards so you will have specific information on what you need to inspect.

The concept, however, does not work for everybody. One example is any business that does all its work on other people’s premises and has no control over those premises, such as home health care services.

Under the new rule, so far 3,328 locations statewide are verifying they do annual safety inspections, according to Diana Sandoval, WCA public information officer. WCA staff safety professionals have conducted more than 155 inspections this year. Sandoval says nobody has been fined.

The statute also applies to state and local government agencies, so I’m wondering whether they’ve contacted their fellow departments. You can imagine how a letter like this would be received by – say — the Department of Corrections, where I have no doubt safety is a very high priority. Fill out a WHAT? You gotta be kidding, somebody will say.

Exactly what all those businesses might be saying.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2017

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