Gearing up for an OSHA Inspection II | DCR Workforce Blog

Gearing up for an OSHA Inspection II

osha checklistEvery business knows how important it is for site managers to be prepared for an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Unfortunately, most inspections follow an incident or accident. Having an inspection right after an accident at the work site would make an inspection that much harder to face for most managers, whose normal operations are immediately impacted by investigations into the cause, meetings with attorneys, arranging for assistance to employees (and their families), and managing press and media relationships. The incident may not have happened on account of faulty workplace practices, it could be the result of a natural calamity like a hurricane or tornado, or just be an accidental occurrence. Nevertheless, companies can expect rigorous investigations by OSHA.

Every inspection is important and could have serious consequences because even a small violation like a damaged electrical cord, or an employee missing safety training, will add up and form the grounds for charges of repeat violation with the attendant penalties and heavy fines. So, in any inspection, it is important to bear the following in mind:

  • Whether the inspection is routine, the result of an incident or a complaint, it is necessary to be prepared.
  • Employers have some rights under the OSH Act, and one of them is their right to be represented during an OSHA inspection and to physically accompany an OSHA compliance inspector during on-site inspection activities.  If the person designated by the employer to fill that role is not available at the moment OSHA arrives, but can be available in a reasonable amount of time, the employer can request that the OSHA inspector wait or return later, with a warrant..
  • In the absence of a relevant special emphasis program, a warrant, or a hazard in plain view, OSHA must obtain the company’s permission to expand the scope of acomplaint-based inspection beyond the location and hazard identified in the complaint.  The companycan insist that the inspection be limited to only that location.
  • The middle of an inspection by OSHA is not the best time for employees to bring up other possible infractions! Establish a program that encourages the participation of and ongoing feedback from the employees.
  • The inspector can determine whether a company knew of the existence of a hazard (or should have known, by applying a reasonable amount of diligence). Questions asked by the inspector would be used to decide if anyone worked near the hazard in the previous months, how many workers would be exposed in the normal course of business, how often someone was exposed and how long was the hazard present. If one supervisor is aware of such a hazard, it is assumed that the company was fully aware and is to blame for not providing diligent oversight or adequate training or for not enforcing safety norms.
  • Use the window of time allowed for submitting documents like OSHA 300 logs, to review them and prepare for the possible queries that may arise. Seek counsel, if required, on the best way to deal with them. Share all internal audit documents, consultation reports and other such records to prove that your actions were not wilful violations.
  • OSHA can issue a subpoena to your workers’ compensation insurer seeking risk assessments, loss control surveys, and other safety audits conducted of your facility to guide their inspection plan and to support its citations. Ensure that any issues identified by an insurer’s safety audit are immediately addressed.
  • Remember that all statements made by a supervisor of the company will be binding on the company. A company’s owner or appointed executive has a right to be present when any supervisor or worker identified by OSHA as in a supervisory capacity is being interviewed.
  • In the case of interviews with temporary employees, the staffing agency serving as Employer of Record should be notified. If appropriate, the company and staffing agency may meet with the worker to explain the the possible line of questioning from OSHA and seek their cooperation in the interview process. Avoid all attempts at intimidation or threats of retaliation. If the worker chooses not to be interviewed, the same may be conveyed to the inspector; who may then subpoena the employee if their evidence is considered important and necessary.
  • Contest any citations, only if you can offer arguments which are reasonable and have a chance of winning against the citations.

On the whole, OSHA needs to be convinced that you are willing and open to addressing all hazards at your workplace before accepting any argument for not having established the ideal standards of safety at your workplace.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.