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Insight into OSHA: Five Questions You Need to Ask

There is a plan and procedure for almost everything in construction. But have you considered the steps you should take when an OSHA inspector shows up? In this blog we will discuss important questions to ask when an OSHA inspector approaches your worksite:

 

Why is there an inspector here today?

What type of documents may I be required to provide?

Can I limit the scope of the inspection?

How does OSHA decide whether or not I get a citation?

What are my options after I receive a citation?

 

Why is there an inspector here today?

OSHA follows a number of priorities when determining which facilities to inspect. Those priorities include imminent danger, fatalities and catastrophes, severe injuries (i.e., hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye), employee complaints, referrals (from law enforcement, other government agencies or the media), and programmed inspections, such as National Emphasis Programs (NEP) or Local Emphasis Programs (LEP).

 

What type of documents may I be required to provide?

Typical documents requested include the organization’s Federal Employer ID number, OSHA injury and illness logs, written programs, and training records.

 

Can I limit the scope of the inspection?

Yes, mainly to manage and limit the risk of providing OSHA more information than you necessarily should. For instance, resist the temptation to offer OSHA a full tour of your job site. Be sure you require the Compliance Officer to follow all workplace safety procedures. You should know the scope of the inspection and limit areas of access and travel routes (where appropriate) to only the areas within that scope.

 

If you learn that OSHA is at your facility due to a complaint, you can ask for a copy of the complaint. However, resist the desire to request OSHA return when they have a warrant. That request may raise the idea in OSHA’s mind that you have something to hide.

 

How does OSHA decide whether or not I get a citation?

Penalties are calculated based on severity, as well as probability, with mitigating factors including history and good faith. There are four violation types:

  • Willful: a violation that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits or a violation that the employer commits with plain indifference to the law.
  • Serious: a violation where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
  • Other-than-serious: a violation that has a direct relationship to safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
  • Repeated: a violation that is the same or similar to a previous violation.

 

What are my options after I receive a citation?

Companies have three options:

  • Accept the citations, correct the conditions and pay the penalty
  • Participate in an informal conference
  • Contest the citations, which must be done in writing within 15 working days of the final order