Regulatory inspections are a part of nearly every business operation. Inspections – particularly from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – are designed to ensure that health and safety guidelines are being followed. In turn, this helps to protect workers from potential sources of injury. By reducing accidents and injuries in the workplace, business owners can drive down their workers’ compensation claims, among many other benefits. To get your business ready for an inspection, read on.
Business owners should designate employees for specific roles in an inspection scenario, particularly:
- An employee who will greet the inspector.
- An employee who will accompany the inspector throughout the inspection process.
- An employee or employees who are tasked with gathering any required documentation, such as safety policies, training records, injury reports, workers compensation claim reports, and hazard mitigation records.
- A union representative if the business operates with union workers.
- Backup employees to fill these primary roles as needed.
PREPARE TO BE SURPRISED
Surprise inspections can sneak up on any business. To prepare, make sure that:
- Records are kept in a safe location – including any that are required under OSHA guidelines
- Records are easily accessible
- Records are complete and thorough
TAKE CARE WHEN ANSWERING QUESTIONS
During the course of the inspection, the inspector may ask you some questions. Although this is not an official interview, it’s a good idea to treat it as such. When he or she asks you questions, remember to:
- Tell the truth
- Make sure you understand the question
- Answer the question and nothing else
- Answer based on your knowledge only. Avoid guessing or speculating
KNOW THE INSPECTION PRIORITIES
OSHA uses a hierarchy of priorities to allocate inspection and enforcement resources, including:
- Imminent danger
- Severe injuries and illnesses
- Workers’ complaints
- Referrals from other federal, local, or state agencies, organizations, individuals, or the media
- Targeted inspections (National, Regional, and Local Emphasis Programs)
- Follow-up inspections to verify the reduction of hazards
Targeted inspections are conducted to address complaints against hazardous industries or specific workplace hazards.
WHEN ARE OSHA PERSONNEL NOT ALLOWED TO NOTIFY IN ADVANCE ABOUT ON-SITE INSPECTIONS?
OSHA won’t send an on-site inspection notice:
- If there is imminent danger present and advance notice would enable the employer to correct it as soon as possible.
- To ensure all employee and employer representatives or other necessary personnel will be present to assist in the inspection.
- When an advance notice will decrease the probability of an effective and thorough inspection, especially in complex fatality investigations.
- If an inspection requires special preparations or needs to be conducted outside of regular business hours.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN AN OSHA INSPECTION?
An OSHA inspection will have:
- An opening conference
- Records and logs review
- A walk-around inspection
- A drone inspection
- Employee, supervisor interviews
- A closing conference
OSHA will issue citations and penalties within 6 months of violations. The enforcement officials must meet the criteria for citing violations, including:
- Applicable standards or sections of the OSHA act
- Determining employee/employer responsibilities
- Employee exposure
DEFENSE AGAINST CITATION
If your workplace inspection shows violations of safety and health regulations, OSHA will issue a citation. You can defend against this citation by showing:
- Your lack of knowledge regarding the violation
- Your employees weren’t exposed to a hazard
- It was not possible to comply with the standard
- Compliance with the standard would have led to greater hazard
PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION
$5000 is the minimum penalty for the willful violation of OSHA, while the maximum penalty is $70000. The maximum penalty for non-willful violation of OSHA is $7000. However, the penalty can be adjusted based on the following factors:
- The seriousness of your violation. i.e., how seriously your employee has been harmed
- Your co-operation and good faith in eliminating the problem
- Your business’ size
- Your history of violation
- Your financial inability to pay the penalty charged
Any affected employer can file a case with the review commission within 15 days after he receives the issued citations.
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