inpection Over the past decade, the U.S. Occupation Safety and Health Administration has seriously ramped up its inspections and penalties. Even if a company is doing everything by the book and is keeping up with all regulations and procedures, OSHA’s step-up in enforcement can still generate a lot of anxiety.
In general, OSHA will send out compliance officers to inspect a business if it becomes aware of imminent danger to the public or personnel. It will also conduct an audit if there were any hospitalizations or fatalities, anonymous complaints, referrals by other governmental agencies or media, follow-ups, or planned investigations for businesses or industries with a history of injury or illness rates.
In the event of low-level hazards or complaints, OSHA may not necessarily visit the site. It will, sometimes communicate with the employer over the phone or email, asking for the necessary documentation. If the company promptly responds and complies with all requirements, OSHA may be satisfied. If for whatever reason, it decides to pay a visit, it'll typically give a brief notice (less than 24 hours) or even show up unannounced.
That said, there are certain things that a company can do to prepare, even if it's maintaining compliance.
Keep Safety Records
One useful piece of advice is to familiarize yourself with OSHA’s Field Operations Manual. Though intended for inspectors, it will provide you with insights into what to expect. Aside from that, you should always keep all safety records up to date because these will be the first items to be inspected and will prove a commitment to safety. These records should include:
- — Pre-use inspections of certain assets
- — Safety and health policies, including your safety manual
- — Documentation of safety training
- — Equipment inspection records
- — A history of injuries and illnesses
- — Results of any self-audits that have been conducted
- — Documentation of any proactive steps taken to abate hazards
- — Documentation of any steps taken to correct previous violations.
Creating a Safety Culture
To prove real commitment to safety, you should develop a safety culture throughout the entire organization. While some companies look at OSHA inspectors as people who are out to get them, it's typically those who don't emphasize safety in the workplace. Companies that have proper safety cultures realize that OSHA has the same goal in mind—to keep people safe. Likewise, inspectors will immediately pick up on safety culture and will respond positively to it.
You can even go as far as asking OSHA for help. An OSHA policy allows businesses to ask for consultations where compliance officers will help the company identify and correct any safety issues. This assistance is free of any penalties as long as corrective actions are implemented. And again, it will prove a commitment to safety.
Last but not least are regular self-inspections. Keeping a record of in-house safety audits and inspections will demonstrate a safety culture. Aside from letting OSHA know you're taking things seriously, these self-inspections will also help reduce costs, boost morale, increase productivity, and lower liability exposure. Some insurance carriers that are in partnership with OSHA will even lower premiums for those that inspect themselves regularly.
Self-inspections should be based upon OSHA's regulatory checklists to take advantage of these benefits. By using a tool such as The Checker Software (which is fully customizable) or our inspection checklist books, you'll be well-prepared for OSHA if and when the agency decides to inspect you.