Any EHS manager can tell you that The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is within its rights to visit and inspect their facility, and yours.
Inspections can occur at any time, and they almost always take place without prior warning, though parties approached for inspection have the right to demand and review an inspection warrant before an OSHA team can examine their workplace.
For those companies who have not kept their plants in compliance with OSHA regulations, the penalties can be severe. A Georgia chemical and colorant plant now faces fines of over a quarter-million dollars for “failing to install a fall protection system and develop and implement a written permit-required, confined-space program.” This according to Businessinurance.com, a good online source for news about actions that OSHA might take against companies who do not meet legal safety standards. As their article says, “The company was also cited for several serious and other-than-serious violations, including failing to develop safety procedures when performing equipment maintenance and servicing, failing to train and evaluate forklift operators, failing to ensure employees have proper personal protective equipment and failing to install machine guards on equipment.”
According to the OSHA Inspection Fact Sheet, inspectors make themselves familiar with your operation and any inspection history of your plant before they visit. They will arrive ready to inspect any part of the facility, with the appropriate personal protective equipment and testing technology in tow. Credentials and other paperwork is then presented to the receiving party, and a pre-inspection conference will take place. During the inspection tour, a representative of the facility, who is chosen by the company, will accompany the OSHA team. A representative of your employees may also accompany the inspection group. Regardless of whether or not an employee rep joins the inspection, the OSHA visitors will meet with a selection of employees as part of the visit.
During the walkaround, the OSHA compliance officers might notice minor violations, which can be corrected immediately. These infractions may still result in citations, but, as the Fact Sheet points out, “prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer.”
A second on-site conference concludes the inspection visit. The OSHA team will review their findings with both company and workforce representatives and explain any subsequent steps. If the inspected facility is found to be out of compliance, the violations will be noted as part of one or more of six categories: willful, serious, other-than-serious, de minimis (trivial), failure to abate, and repeated. Each category carries its own level of severity.
If citations are issued, there is an appeals process that can be exercised, and a settlement can often be reached between OSHA and those cited, wherein the hazard is corrected, and further action dismissed. As explained at OSHA.gov, the agency’s “primary goal is correcting hazards and maintaining compliance rather than issuing citations or collecting penalties.”
So, what triggers an OSHA inspection in the first place? There a number of ways in which a specific company or a particular facility can be tagged for inspection. We will take a look at these reasons for an OSHA visit in next week’s Tuesday Training.
Compliance follows from great training. Speak with a Findlay expert today about how Findlay All Hazards can help you ensure facility-wide safety that will meet all regulatory expectations.