Be Prepared When OSHA Arrives
While you may never have to go through an OSHA inspection, you need to be prepared as if you are in compliance with standards issued by OSHA for protected workplaces. Inspections conducted by OSHA Officials are often unannounced. An organization should plan its review strategy if OSHA comes knocking. The federal government issues OSHA penalties as a deterrent, and as revenue collection, so hefty penalties are not unusual. OSHA certifications require employers decrease violations. In some cases, corrective measures may cost more than the actual sanctions. California has independent occupational safety and health training programs, and it performs inspections using trained state safety and health officials.
What Could Prompt an Inspection?
OSHA inspections can take place at any time. While visiting inspectors rarely give an advance notice that a worksite evaluation will commence. In certain severe situations, OSHA will notify a company within 24 hours ahead of their visiting inspection. Although OSHA cannot inspect all workplaces each year, employers ought to be ready when OSHA decides to examine their organizations’ work sites. Should an inspection arise, here are four key areas that OSHA inspectors consider when pursuing an OSHA inquiry.
When hazardous workplace accidents result in employee injuries, an employer is likely to receive a visit from an OSHA inspector. Such a visit is untimely and unwelcome, to say the least. An employer should be quick on handling the sudden government investigation. He should be careful to select the right personnel to guide the visiting OSHA official and make particular arrangements ahead of the inspection.
If an employee requests a review after a workplace injury, or the accident prompts OSHA to initiate the inquiry; it shouldn’t change the company’s earlier response. In any case, the employer needs to establish in advance who will escort the official during the inspection, and that individual should be prepped on how to cooperate with the investigator.
Many OSHA offices receive numerous employer complaints ranging from employee safety to potential workplace risks or unsolved industrial disputes. For low-risk grievances, OSHA calls the company to alert it of the charge and follows up with a formal letter demanding a response within ten working days. Employers should furnish a detailed response, and evidence of compliance such as photos, invoices for the acquisition of safety gear or proof of staff training. The OSHA inspector should present the company a copy of the complaint during the initial meeting. The employer’s safety management team should also participate in the conference to ascertain the inspector’s accusations and findings. The invited staff must be familiar with OSHA regulations.
An employer may request an inspection following a referral from the company’s networks for certification or further industrial training. This is advisable for new businesses or recently hired industrial workers. The employer should make prior arrangements of who will accompany the inspector during the assessment, and that individual must be briefed on how to cooperate with the OSHA inspector.
Mere Chance/Random Stops
Several events trigger random OSHA evaluations. It may be initiated by an emphasis program targeted assessment. A particular industry may be recognized by the Department of Labor to be practicing inconsistent safety and health hazards to its workers as compared to other businesses. For those cited industries, OSHA randomly selects some companies within a specified SIC code and visits the establishment unannounced. They do not provide any notification or warning before an investigation.
What to Have Ready Ahead of Time
Establish a Procedure
OSHA does not give advance inspection warning. In fact, it is authorized to issue penalties to anyone giving a company advance inspection notice. First, order for the employee rights notice from OSHA’s website and post it right away in common staff areas. Next, execute an action chart to implement in the inspection, and have in place a company Safety and Health Officer to guarantee the plan is implemented accordingly. The presiding company officer should determine which standards apply to your business, and make sure all necessary policies and records of onsite injuries are updated and filed appropriately. Also, perform a quick housekeeping. If you have regular activities that create a messy environment, clean those areas at once.
Confirm Their Identity
Scrutinize their credentials and documentation regarding the unwelcomed visit. You may clarify with the local OSHA office using the identification cards provided. Once you have verified their documents, organize a quick meeting to define the scope of the inspection and any assistance required from your company’s supervisors. You should alert your company’s relevant personnel of the immediate investigation. You may provide the officials with a desk where they can carry on with their investigative work.
Know the Documents They Will Ask For & Have Them Easily Accessible
- A Hazard Communication Handbook
- Employee Training Records
- Material/Chemical Safety Data Sheets
- Injury and Illness summary backdated three calendar years, plus current records
- Any documentation related to inspection, training logs, written programs, and equipment maintenance logs
The officials may ask for additional records for further assessment. You should note all reviewed documents. Besides the OSHA inspections, the government also considers employment and tax laws from time to time. It may not be easy to keep up with all these changes but nonetheless, never get caught unaware or worse still, unprepared. Your business must be well equipped for all employee standard legal requirements.
During the Inspection
Provide PPE to the Inspector if Needed
OSHA may ask to see your company’s Personal protective equipment (PPE) if their reason for visiting was injury-related complaints. PPE includes items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, earplugs, hard hats, coveralls, respirators, vests and full body suits. All protective equipment must be safely constructed and maintained in a clean and reliable environment. It should feel comfortable, encouraging employee use. If the protective gear fits inappropriately, it can make the worker dangerously exposed to potential illnesses or injuries. Employers are also mandated to train all employees required to wear personal protective equipment on the following:
- When to wear PPE
- What kind to use
- The limitations of the safety kit
- How to properly wear it, adjust it, and take it off
- Proper maintenance and disposal of the protective equipment
Employers are liable for providing a secure and healthy workplace under the Workplace Safety; Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 training requirements. OSHA’s task is to guarantee employee protection and prevent occupational illnesses, injuries, and deaths by enforcing standards through outreach, assistance training, education, and support. All employers should keep a record of safety and health training programs. Documentation is equally important as evidence for employee training if an OSHA investigator seeks proof of the same. Workers Protection on professional training conditions listed in OSHA standards is placed in five categories:
- General Industry
- Federal Employees
Take Notes & Photos
After a successful meeting and a review of all the relevant documentation with an OSHA official, clarify areas that the OSHA official needs to inspect. Escort him on a worksite tour and stay by his side and identify further violations cited along the way. Take notes, samples, pictures, and videos similar to the OSHA recordings.
The officials may also request random interviews with some of your staff members in private. The employer’s safety manager should take charge of assisting the selected employee for the OSHA interviews. He should make sure that the employees know their rights during the session. The inspector must strictly limit their investigation to the issues addressed in the report. Should the official ask about issues not mentioned in the complaint, the handling manager has the right to steer the inspector away from the area. After the interviews, debrief the rest of the staff to prepare all employees for future OSHA random checks better.
It is very critical to note that you cannot lie under any circumstances to the OSHA inspector. Give honest, polite answers. If your organization does not have a listed program in place, say so. However, do not offer any voluntary information; it may earn you additional fines. Just stick to the scheduled inspection procedure.
At the conclusion of the on-site OSHA investigation, the inspector conducts a closing meeting to signify the end of the inquiry. During the meeting, he reviews the company’s findings with the employer. It’s also useful to ask the compliance officer if any other matters need to be clarified by your business. This way, your company can commence rectifying the simple errors to decrease any potential hazards before the visiting inspector issues a citation report.
The company is not under any obligation to resolve any issues preceding the issuance of on-site business citations. OSHA proceeds to give the company a fixed time limit to comply at the date of issuing the citation. The defined deadline may extend to a few days from the inspection date to enable the employer extra time to abide by the terms.
A member of the safety management team should request for a copy of all the itemized areas to be addressed from the OSHA inspector. This prevents any errors in the recorded areas of concern. Once the closing meeting is concluded, the OSHA official will leave your premises to begin working on the citations, which he will schedule to send to your company at a later date.
This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.