Last week’s blog outlined what to expect when OSHA visits, from the knock on the door to the initial meetings, and ending with the documentation you will need to provide. This week’s blog continues with the onsite visit.
After having gathered the requested documentation, the inspector will tour your worksite to observe working conditions. Someone who is familiar with your safety programs, as well as the facility, should accompany the inspector at all times to ensure questions are answered appropriately. The OSHA compliance officer determines the route and duration of the inspection, unless there is an area where a critical operation is being conducted that cannot be interrupted without causing a hazard, in which case the supervisor has the right to change the route. An employer also has the right to refuse an inspection, or to block access to specific records. However, the inspector can then obtain a warrant or a subpoena.
The inspector may document specific items with photographs or videos. While that is allowed, if anything being recorded is confidential (such as processes that involve trade secrets), you can ask the inspector to note that on the materials, so they will not be released to anyone outside OSHA.
The OSHA inspector will interview randomly selected employees. Typical questions may address work procedures, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment. Contract employees will be included in interviews to ensure that equally effective protection is provided to all employees involved in the site’s operation. OSHA may also conduct more formal interviews with persons randomly selected from an employee roster with the goal of interviewing a cross section of employees, managers, and supervisors. These interviews usually take place in a private setting and last about one-half hour each.
Following the completion of the inspection, the OSHA inspector will hold a closing conference to discuss their findings and identify any violations that were observed. The discussion will incorporate possible courses of action to be taken following the inspection, which could include citations, abatement of potential citations, a negotiated reasonable time frame to perform abatement, contesting abatements, etc. You’ll be given a date by which you’ll be expected to remedy the violation. If you disagree with the violation or the amount of time you’ve been given to remedy the violation, you can appeal the citation. Once you’ve corrected all of the violations, you are required to inform OSHA’s area director.
Citation categories can range from minor violations with no penalty to criminally willful, which can result in penalties as high as $70,000 per violation. The best strategy for avoiding needless injuries and hazardous conditions that may result in employee complaints and ultimately citations is to fully commit to a safe workplace. With proper training of your employees, and knowledge of OSHA safety and workplace standards, your company will not only offer a safe and compliant workplace, but will also be ready to effectively and professionally handle an unannounced visit by an OSHA compliance officer.
To learn more about OSHA training, as well other training courses provided by TCS, visit our website at www.tcs-inc.us.