Feel prepared during an OSHA inspection

Posted in Business

A man in white hard hat uses a tablet to take infrared imaging of ceiling ducts inside a warehouse.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) helps business owners prioritize the health and safety of employees and customers on their premises while maintaining compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA inspections can help companies reduce issues with personal protective equipment, fire extinguishers, eyewash stations and other equipment. In turn, that can help reduce the risk of injury and loss on company property.

We’ve gathered the basics to help you learn what happens during an OSHA inspection and what you can do to prepare for them. Plus, learn how OSHA compliance can make risk control for your business insurance simpler. Let’s get started!

What is an OSHA inspection?

An inspection provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that checks for safety hazards and health hazards is an OSHA inspection. The general types of inspections are:

  • Imminent Danger
  • Severe Injury, Severe Illness, Fatality
  • Employee Complaint
  • Referral
  • Programmed (random, unannounced)
  • Follow-Up

The OSHA inspection process involves an inspector, or compliance officer, surveying an area. OSHA inspection priorities are the same for every inspection—"help employers and workers reduce on-the-job hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace” according to OSHA.

The inspection may cover an entire workplace or only a few parts of an operation. For example, there may be a clear and present danger in one area of a manufacturing plant, but the rest of the plant may not be subjected to inspection at that time. 

Let’s say you own a company and manufacturing plant that packages variety bags of tree nuts. Your plant has three designated zones including storage, processing and packaging. If some of the equipment in the processing zone is failing and creating a safety hazard, the storage and packaging zones may still be able to continue regular operations.

Or, let’s say your business creates various types of large, custom glass like curved windows and windshields. After a piece of equipment breaks, dozens of large pieces of glass are dropped. With glass fragments everywhere, operations must stop until the area can be cleaned up and inspected

What happens during an OSHA inspection?

You can expect an inspection to take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the size of your business or job site, the number of potential hazards, the area(s) that need examination and more. Each OSHA inspection includes three separate steps. 

Step one is an opening conference or introduction to explain the reason for the health and safety review. 

Then, an inspector will begin a walkthrough of the affected area with management and employees. 

Finally, a closing conference will share the findings of any violations, propose any penalties and provide deadlines to fix the issues.

Note: Not all hazards are considered OSHA violations, so sometimes safety concerns can be left unresolved. It is then up to the employer to decide when and how to fix any issues outside of OSHA standards.

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Who can request an OSHA inspection? 

Employers and employees can request an inspection. If you are an employee and you believe your employer is not following OSHA regulations, you can contact OSHA directly to submit a request for an inspection. Employees have a right to file a complaint to OSHA under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

How many OSHA inspections can employers anticipate every year?

Every business will get at least one annual OSHA inspection in accordance with the regulation 29 CFR 1960.25(c). Additional inspections will depend on potential health and safety issues that may arise throughout the year. OSHA may also make additional unrequested inspections, normally without advance notice. While employers can require OSHA officers to obtain an inspection warrant prior to entering a workplace, this may set a poor tone for the eventual inspection and is not likely to benefit the employer in the long run. Cooperation and good faith efforts are the best course of action.

What to do if you believe an OSHA inspection is needed

If you believe it’s time to submit a request for an OSHA inspection, follow these steps:

  • Before an OSHA inspection

    Prepare your explanation for needing a review and submit the detailed complaint to OSHA. The response from OSHA will depend on the severity of the complaint and whether there is immediate danger.
  • During an OSHA inspection

    An employee may ask questions during the opening conference or closing conference. If the individual is an employee representative, they may be able to join the compliance officer during the walkthrough and provide further insight
  • After an OSHA inspection

    An employee can ask questions after the compliance officer shares their results. If the employee isn’t satisfied with the findings and requested solutions, the compliance officer can discuss next steps.

What happens if you receive a citation?

During the closing conference, there will be clear takeaways provided by the compliance officer. If you receive a citation, there will be clear penalties and deadlines for fixing the OSHA violations. Employers and employees may be able to work with the compliance officer to reach a settlement agreement or get good faith adjustments. However, no good faith adjustments are made for alleged willful violations.

Important note: OSHA has up to six months from the date of a violation’s occurrence to issue a citation and proposed penalty.

How to work with your risk control team to reduce OSHA inspections

Your Integrity Independent Agent and risk control team can help you stay compliant with OSHA regulations year-round. From tailored risk control services to assistance creating a workplace safety program that captures your needs, we can help.

Talk to your independent agent today to learn more about risk control opportunities for your business. 

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