Planning for a successful OSHA inspection.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections can be stressful for contractors and are usually conducted without advance notice.
There are, however, circumstances under which OSHA may give advance warning to the employer, although it will usually be less than 24 hours’ notice. Advance warning may be given in imminent danger situations, investigation of a fatality and incidences where select people must be present.
Employers who receive advance notice of an inspection must inform their employees’ labor representative or arrange for OSHA to do so. If an employer refuses to admit an OSHA compliance officer, or if an employer tries to interfere with the inspection, the OSHA Act provides for legal action.
How the inspection unfolds
OSHA inspectors/officers should come to your facility prepared, understanding relevant facts about your contracting business, such as its inspection history, its known potential hazards and the specific standards that might apply. Inspectors should show appropriate credentials, and as an owner, you can call the federal or local OSHA office to verify credentials.
An opening conference including involved parties and the OSHA team begins the inspection process. The conference covers the purpose of the visit, the scope of the inspection and the applicable standards. A copy of any employee complaint can be given to you at this time. The act does not require that an employee representative be present for an inspection. However, when no employees are in attendance, the compliance officer must consult with a reasonable number of employees concerning safety and health matters.
The compliance officer determines the length of the inspection and the areas to be covered. Safety and health conditions and practices are observed. Employee discussions are private. If necessary, the inspector takes photos and videos, measures instrument readings and noise levels, examines records and monitors employee exposure to toxic substances.
During the inspection, OSHA pays special attention to posting and recordkeeping requirements, such as totals from the last page of the OSHA Form Number 300 and the OSHA workplace poster (OSHA 3165), which explains employees’ safety and health rights. Records of toxic substances and harmful agents are also requested. Under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Program, employers must establish a written, comprehensive communication program that includes provisions for container labeling, material safety data sheets and an employee training program.
A closing conference completes the onsite inspection. The employer and all others involved then receive a copy of Employer Rights and Responsibilities (OSHA 3000). The inspector will discuss all unsafe/unhealthy conditions observed.
The inspector will not indicate any specific proposed penalties, but will inform the employer of his or her appeal rights. During this time, the business owner may produce records of compliance efforts and information to help the inspector determine abatement time frames. If laboratory results are required, or when the hazard affects employees, OSHA may request one more closing conference.
Preparing for an OSHA inspection
At a minimum, employers should: display the OSHA poster entitled, “Jobsite Safety and Health; It’s the Law”; always record injuries sustained on the site; develop procedures to notify management of potential hazards; have an “action plan” ready for an inspection; and coach all employees on the site how to respond appropriately to the inspector’s inquiries.
Understanding your hazards and controls for injury prevention is key. If you have had any incidents and/or accidents, make sure you have conducted a root cause analysis. Even if the causes are unrelated to your business, make sure you have addressed them, as OSHA may decide to investigate.
Have a clear documented history of all incidents and accidents. Maintain all appropriate recordkeeping, including training programs and records. If you have a health and safety manual, make sure it is updated with current OSHA standards.
Ensure that your site is organized and clean. Hazardous, flammable and combustible materials and products should be properly stored. Have your emergency evacuation plan updated, if needed. First aid kits and fire extinguishers should also meet current OSHA standards.
The purpose of this article is to provide information, rather than advice or opinion. CNA does not endorse any coverages, systems, processes or protocols addressed herein unless they are produced or created by CNA. For more resources, visit www.osha.gov.
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