It’s every organization’s duty to keep their workplace safe for their employees. However, there are lots of regulations that you need to follow to accomplish this especially from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which is the regulatory body that looks into these compliances.
For this, they routinely carry out inspections in organizations to check if the right policies are being followed. It’s become important to know more about these inspections as the penalties for violations were recently increased by 78%. Previously, the maximum penalty was capped at $7,000, and now it’s been revised to $12,471. Similarly, for repeated violations, the penalty has been raised from $70,000 to $124,709.
Let’s take a look at everything that you must know about OSHA inspections to be better prepared for them.
1. No Appointments
OSHA doesn’t need to inform your organization in advance about the investigations. They can drop in at any given moment and take you by surprise. Due to this uncertainty, you must ensure that you follow regulations at all times. They could, alternatively, investigate complaints via phone if they wish to expedite the process.
If there’s imminent danger, then they may provide you an advance notice to expedite their investigation process and sort out the problems immediately.
2. Employee Complaints Can Play A Big Role
There can be various triggers for OSHA inspections. These include serious injuries or fatalities. However, in most cases, this trigger could be employee complaints. After all, the regulations from OSHA are meant to protect your employees. If they feel that their safety is compromised at your organization, they can complain to OSHA. These complaints are taken seriously by OSHA and can lead to a surprise investigation of your workplace.
That’s why you must try to ensure that there’s always a possibility of a free dialogue between your management and employees. This way, they can raise all the issues that they have with the workplace in your meetings, and you can address them right away. Doing so can help you reduce the number of employee complaints to OSHA, and this, in turn, can reduce the possibility of an OSHA inspection.
3. They Are Transparent
While the idea of an OSHA inspection may seem intimidating to you, especially if you’re a small business owner, it’s far from that. OSHA is an organization that strives to make the investigation process as convenient and transparent as possible. However, you should try to cooperate completely and try not to hide anything from them.
Whenever an inspection officer from OSHA arrives at your workplace, they will organize a meeting called the “Opening Conference.” In this conference, the officer will lay down all the details clearly for you, including the reason for the inspection and its scope.
They’ll also elaborate on the procedures that shall be followed by them to conduct the inspection. In addition to that, the officers may ask you to arrange for some employee representation or interviews to understand their viewpoints better.
4. You Can Accompany The Officer
Once the officer has conducted the Opening Conference, they will start inspecting your workplace to spot any hazards that could lead to injuries or illnesses. They may choose to survey a particular section of the workplace or go through the entire area altogether. However, you won’t be kept in the dark here as well. You can accompany the officer along with one representative while they conduct the inspection.
By being on the site tour with the OSHA officer, you can instantly correct any potential hazards pointed out by them. They may observe this as an indication of good faith too. Additionally, the officer may want to look through your injury records to look into the history of your organization’s workplace safety.
The duration of the inspection is never fixed. It may last a few hours or could go on for weeks. It’s dependent upon the size of your workplace, the nature of the investigation, and the severity of the hazards pointed out in the complaints (if any). Lastly, you should consider taking notes of all the important things that the officer looks into. This can help you make your workplace safer and prepare better for any future OSHA inspections.
5. You Can Challenge The Penalties
Once the OSHA officer has surveyed your workplace, they’ll hold a “Closing Conference,” where they’ll discuss their findings, violations, and potential penalties. They will also inform you of the future course of action that you should take to resolve any problems pointed out by them. Sometimes, they may recommend some OSHA services to you, such as their free audit program.
They may decide to issue a penalty. You can choose to challenge these penalties by appealing to the OSHA area director by submitting a written notice to them. This is then reviewed by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). If they find your points reasonable, they may decide to repeal or reduce the penalties. You may be instructed to correct the violations, and the OSHA officers may help you with these.
The steep rise in the penalty amounts from OSHA can be intimidating for most small and medium-sized organizations. However, you must remember that OSHA is an organization and employee-friendly body that strives hard to create safe workplaces nationwide. Through the inspections, it helps you identify potential hazards and determine the current state of your workplace.
The inspections can be conducted at any time without a prior appointment. However, the inspection officer will brief you about all the details before conducting the investigation. You can accompany them throughout the duration to understand the investigation process better and take helpful notes. If you’re penalized, you can choose to challenge it as well.
What are the other things you must know about OSHA inspections? Let me know in the comments.