Contractors typically want to know why they have been singled out for an OSHA inspection. Inspections can be motivated by on-site circumstances, or they can be scheduled pursuant to one of OSHA’s special emphasis programs.
- Catastrophic Accident or Death. If an employee dies at your job site or is injured and sent to the hospital, you will receive an OSHA inspection in short time. Please recall that employers have a self-reporting requirement in such situations. You can expect that such an inspection will focus on the work areas frequented by the injured employee and any equipment that could have been used by the employee. Additionally, OSHA will focus on your safety training and documentation.
- Follow-Up Inspections: It is not uncommon for OSHA to conduct follow-up inspections for previously cited violations. If abatement was required, and if you have not filed proper abatement documentation with OSHA in a timely manner, OSHA likely will conduct another inspection. This inspection will not necessarily be limited to the areas of abatement. After completing any OSHA inspection, contractors should put a method in place for tracking their abatement deadlines to avoid any follow-up inspections.
- Referrals: OSHA frequently schedules inspections based on external referrals, such as media stories, or direct notification by law enforcement or emergency medical services. Employers should monitor news sources and blogs, including setting up an online alert, so that they are aware of any potential for a referral inspection. If an online alert indicates that a referral inspection may be imminent, employers should take steps to ensure that their inspection will go smoothly.
- Complaints: Inspections frequently occur due to employee complaints. Contractors should be aware of any disgruntled employee or former employee that may take out their anger on the company through an OSHA complaint. However, contractors that suspect current employees of making a complaint, or cooperating with a complaining employee, must take care not to retaliate against the employee. That employee could bring a whistleblower complaint against the company.
- Programmed Inspection Plans. OSHA has several inspection plans subject to “special emphasis programs” and “local emphasis programs”. These programs target certain industries or areas that are of concern to OSHA. Programmed inspections usually are related to industries with high injury rates, exposure to toxic substances, or individual employers or industries with high citation histories.
What should I do if I’m alerted to the pending inspection?
It is extremely rare that an employer will receive advanced notice from OSHA of an inspection. If an OSHA employee provides advanced notice, he or she can be subject to penalties, including a $1,000 fine and up to six months in prison. However, certain events should alert a vigilant employer of a pending inspection.
If you suspect an OSHA inspection may be imminent, you should take several immediate steps:
- Walk through the job site and conduct your own inspection.
- Take careful note of all guarding methods and make sure that they have not been disregarded for the sake of ease or efficiency.
- Note all power sources and sources of motion to make sure the proper emergency shut-offs are in place.
- Make sure that all lock-out/tag-out procedures are being followed.
- Examine all logs for currency and completeness.
- Ensure that all switches are effective and compliant.
- Document all safety meetings.
- Update safety manuals.
- Locate the urgent response and blood-borne pathogen policies and procedures.
- Conduct periodic training on all safety procedures, including lock-out/tag-out procedures.
- Conduct lock-out/tag-out audits of all safety trainers.
- Make sure your forklifts are compliant and all users are certified as trained.
- Contact your OSHA attorney to prepare for interviews, inspection, and strategy to minimize exposure.—Geoffrey S. Trotier
See Part One of this post, ” OSHA is knocking at my door…what do I do? on the NARI blog.
Geoffrey S. Trotier is a Shareholder in the Labor and Employment Law Section at von Briesen & Roper, s.c. and practices in the firm’s Milwaukee office. Trotier assists businesses of all sizes in diverse labor and employment issues. He is licensed to practice law in both Wisconsin and Minnesota and can be reached at 414-276-1122 or at www.vonbriesen.com.