What to do when OSHA comes knocking on your door

J.J. Keller & Associates
Tags: workplace safety

Many companies fear the day when OSHA shows up at their door – and not necessarily because they feel that they have something to hide. There is simply a lack of understanding of what an employer should do during an OSHA inspection – what they will ask for and what you are expected to do.

Why does OSHA conduct inspections?
OSHA conducts workplace inspections in order to determine if employers are complying with standards issued by the agency for safe and healthful workplaces. Inspections are conducted by OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers who are trained in the OSHA standards and in the recognition of safety and health hazards. If your state has its own occupational safety and health programs, it may conduct inspections using qualified state compliance safety and health officers.

Will we receive notice if OSHA is coming?
Actually, inspections are typically conducted without advance notice. Alerting an employer without proper authorization in advance of an OSHA inspection can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a six-month jail term. This is true for both OSHA compliance officers and state inspectors. There are special circumstances under which OSHA may give notice to the employer, but the notice would still be less than 24 hours. Circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • Imminent danger situations that require correction as soon as possible;
  • Inspection that must take place after regular business hours or which require special preparation;
  • Cases where notice is required to assure that the employer and employee representative or other personnel will be present;
  • Cases where an inspection must be delayed for more than 5 working days when there is good cause; and
  • Situations in which the OSHA area director determines that advance notice would produce a more thorough or effective inspection.

Can we refuse to let the compliance officer in?
You have the right to refuse to let the compliance officer inspect your premises. However, the inspector will report such refusals to the OSHA Area Director who may initiate the process to obtain a search warrant for your facility.

Will OSHA tell us why they are inspecting our operations?
When OSHA comes to your facility, they'll conduct an opening conference in which they explain the reason for the inspection, for example, because of an employee complaint, because the company falls into a high hazard category, or because the business falls into an enhanced enforcement plan.

What types of materials and records will the compliance officer likely ask to see?
You should always assume that the compliance officer will ask to review worksite injury and illness records and posting of the official OSHA poster. Other records, appropriate to the inquiry, may also be requested, such as written plans and programs, training records, equipment inspection records, or any other records that pertain to the inspection.

KOL can help you prepare
KellerOnline can help you to prepare for the day when OSHA shows up at your front door! For starters, within the Topic Index you will find the OSHA Inspection Procedures topic that contains many useful areas including the ez Explanation® that explains OSHA inspections, the inspection process, and the closing conference. This topic also contains Compliance Directives and Standard Directives – such as the Field Operations Manual – which provides direction to OSHA Compliance Officers on how to do inspections.

KOL's OSHA Inspection Procedures topic contains a document from the Department of Labor entitled, 'OSHA Inspections', which explains what the inspection priorities are, how the process works, how the appeals process works, and more.

KellerOnline provides you with several recordkeeping tools to assist you in preparing and maintaining your records so that there are no surprises when OSHA shows up at your door. Found within the Interactive Tools area, the Incidents (Form 300/301) feature allows you to maintain your OSHA Form 300/301 logs within the service. The Training Recordkeeping feature allows you to maintain your required training records.

Other sources of information include the Webcast archives area of the Learning Center. Over the past several years KOL has presented several webcasts on the top citations and the OSHA emphasis programs.

Finally, on September 15, we'll be presenting a Webcast, "OSHA Enforcement: Looking toward the future with an eye on the past", where we'll take a look at recent news under the new administration and what that may mean to your workplace – including increased enforcement, stiffer penalties, and new regulations.

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