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How OSHA Decides On Inspections

OHSA Inspections

Let’s examine what circumstances might bring compliance officers to your location.

OSHA keeps an inspection force of about twenty-one hundred officers (a number that has decreased in recent years), and they are responsible for covering more than 8 million workplaces.

There are some random inspections each year, with OSHA arriving without any prior complaint or evidence of a violation. More often, though, compliance officers only visit those facilities that truly merit an inspection, and then only if the reported or suspected condition cannot be resolved to OSHA’s satisfaction beforehand. The hazard must be considered severe, or an incident must have occurred that demanded local responders to arrive, for a certain on-site inspection. For less potentially hazardous or immediately dangerous situations, the employer may receive a phone call and/or a written notice from OSHA stating that the Administration is aware of a potential violation, and requesting more information and internal action.

Sites are chosen for inspection using this priority:

Imminent Danger: First priority is given to hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA compliance officers will ask employers to correct these hazards immediately or remove endangered employees.

Fatalities and Catastrophes: Following in importance are incidents that involve a death or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

Complaints or Referrals: Next on the list are allegations of hazards or violations. These are usually situations where no hazard incident has occurred resulting in response teams being called to the facility.

Follow-Up Visits: Attention to hazardous conditions cited during previous inspections must be verified, and this often includes a second inspection.

Planned or Programmed Inspections: Industries or specific workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses may be selected for inspection, regardless of any prior incident or complaint.

OSHA may learn of a possible severe hazard by a variety of means, including observations by the public, or concerns presented by a company’s visitors or customers. Many inspections are also initiated by referrals from emergency responders who may have visited a facility in response to an accident.

Another genesis for inspections is complaints from employees, who may request anonymity when they file complaints. If an employee contacts OSHA, their concern will be evaluated across a number of criteria before a formal investigation begins. OSHA will ask the concerned employee for information that includes:

  •    Whether or not the hazardous exposure or condition is presently occurring
  •    How long the hazard lasted if it is not still occurring
  •    When the hazardous condition or exposure last occurred
  •    If any illnesses or injuries appear to be the result of the hazard

If answers to questions like those advance the complaint to further inquiry, an administrator will determine if OSHA should proceed with a personal inspection, or if a “phone and fax” investigation is the next best course of action.

Since OSHA inspections can be random, there is no certain way of avoiding them. But you can maintain a workplace that is productive and at the same time will pass inspection. Findlay All Hazards offers worksite analysis in conjunction with our on-site training workshops and our Custom Corporate Training programs.

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