A planned or unplanned visit from OHSA can be daunting. Use the guidelines below to help prepare for an OSHA inspection.
What triggers an OSHA inspection? An OSHA inspection can be triggered by any of the following:
- Planned inspection
- National/local emphasis program (lead, amputations, etc.)
- Site specific targeting program (high incident rate sites)
- Follow-up on a previous inspection
- Imminent danger
What comprises an OSHA inspection?
- OSHA 300 logs from the last five years (or records of work-related injuries and illnesses)
- OSHA 301 forms or incident reports
- Reports of fatalities and catastrophic events
- Annual summaries for the last five years
- Medical surveillance (hearing tests, respiratory, etc.)
- MSDS books/sheets
- Written safety compliance programs (HazComm, lockout/tagout, emergency procedures, etc.)
- Development of the written program
- Execution of the programs
- Employee training (orientation, refresher, attendance records, subject matter, etc.)
- Site inspection
- Identify physical hazards
- Observe employee unsafe behavior
- Evaluate level of non-compliance with OSHA standards
- Employee interviews
- Labor representative
- Rank and file
What should I do if OSHA wants to inspect my worksite?
- Provide a room with privacy for the inspector.
- Examine the inspector’s credentials.
- Ask for the purpose of the inspection (complaint, etc.).
- Determine how you will handle the inspection.
- Buy time: Require the inspector to leave and obtain a warrant, or ask the inspector to come back the next day because you are busy (depending on how much time you need).
- Let the inspector in to proceed with the inspection, accompanied by appropriate personnel.
- Inform appropriate production personnel (managers, supervisors) of the imminent inspection; advise them to quickly tour their areas and make “last minute” improvements (e.g. housekeeping, PPE, etc.).
- Someone who is familiar with your written programs, as well as the facility, should accompany the inspector at all times to ensure questions can be answered appropriately.
- If the inspector identifies any “quick fix” items, have them taken care of immediately, or at least by the time the inspector returns again.
- Take “before” and “after” photographs of every improvement made.
- If the inspector takes photographs or video, consider doing the same concurrently.
- If the inspector conducts noise or air monitoring, consider doing the same concurrently.
- Take good notes during the post-inspection conference; the inspector’s comments are likely to be items that might show up in citations.
What are OSHA’s violation classifications?
- Violation Penalty
- De Minimis Violation Warning
- Non-Serious Violation Up to $7,000 per violation
- Serious Violation Up to $7,000 per violation
- Willful or Repeated Violation Between $5,000 and $70,000 per violation
- Willful Violation Resulting in Death of Employee Up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months
- Penalties may double for a second or higher conviction
- Uncorrected Violation Up to $7,000 per day until the violation is corrected
- Making false statements, representations or certification up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months
- Violation of posting requirements up to $7,000 per violation
- Providing unauthorized advance notice of inspection up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to six months or both
Why might OSHA write a citation and assign a $0.00 penalty?
OSHA often assigns a $0.00 penalty in order to write a large number of citations without it being unrealistically expensive for you. However, this is typically only done one time; if OSHA finds the same violations in the future, it may cite you for a “willful” or “repeat” violation and assign a penalty up to $70,000. Be sure to start with a clean slate. All violations from previous inspections should be cleared, or you may be assigned large penalties.
What should I do if I receive citations following an OSHA inspection?
- Pay the citations.
- OSHA may offer a reduction in the penalty if it feels the inspection otherwise went well; it will ask you to agree to pay the penalty early in order to pay the discounted penalty.
- If you strongly disagree with one or more citations, send OSHA a letter of “notice to contest” within 15 days of the inspection; prepare to go to court.
- Use the “informal conference,” which is one of the most common responses.
- Meet with the OSHA area director within 15 days of receiving the citations.
- It enables you to challenge the citations and penalties without going to court.
- Regardless of the outcome, you give up your right to officially contest your citations.
- You can make your case to eliminate the citation altogether, reduce the severity of the citation classification, reduce the penalty amount, or revise something about the abatement (time or content).