This month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its annual list of the top ten most frequently cited violations. The list is instructive of ongoing compliance challenges with particular standards and OSHA’s enforcement priorities. The list includes:
- Fall Protection
- Hazard Communication
- Respiratory Protection
- Powered Industrial Trucks
- Electrical, Wiring Methods
- Machine Guarding
- Electrical, General Requirements
Now that you know what OSHA is looking for, do you know what to do if OSHA pays a visit to your facility?
Before an inspection
Be prepared. Decide on an employer representative, such as a safety manager or owner, who will escort the inspector in the event of an inspection. Ask the inspector for identification. Write down the inspector’s name and office. If you are unsure about the inspector’s credentials, call the local OSHA office to confirm the inspector’s information. Also, contact the designated employee representative who will also attend the opening conference and walkaround.
The Opening Conference
During the initial interview, called the “opening conference”, the inspector will explain why OSHA selected the workplace for inspection. Circumstances that may trigger an inspection include:
- Imminent danger
- Fatality or serious accident
- Employee complaint
- Referral from other entity
- Programmed inspection
- Follow-up inspection
The inspector will describe the scope of the inspection, including what machines or procedures will be observed, explain the employer’s rights, and explain how to contest potential citations. Although an employer has the right to refuse entry to an OSHA inspector (absent a warrant or subpoena), the employer’s cooperation can affect how smoothly the inspection will go.
The inspector will ask for basic information about the facility, including:
- Type of work performed
- Number of employees
- Names of those in charge
- Contact information
The inspector may provide certain documents, such as a copy of a complaint, and may request certain employer records, such as injury and illness logs. Good recordkeeping practices pay off during an inspection. If necessary, ask for additional time. The inspector may agree to postpone the inspection.
The conduct of OSHA inspections vary greatly. Depending on the focus of the inspection and the size of the facility, an OSHA inspection can take anywhere from one day to multiple weeks. The inspector may wish to observe particular machines or processes, a certain production area, or the full facility. During the walkaround, the inspector will take photos and notes and ask questions. Employers are advised to do the same. Ensure that the appropriate personal protective equipment is being worn by all persons during an inspection and that the OSHA posting is conspicuously posted at the work site.
The Closing Conference
At the conclusion of the inspection, the inspector will discuss with the employer and employee representatives either in person or via telephone conference the findings and next steps. Employers should be prepared to respond promptly. Some hazards can be corrected without a citation issuing. Some violations can be corrected immediately. OSHA will not allow a dangerous situation to persist, but it may take up to six months after the closing conference to file citations and assess penalties.