What is the last priority for OSHA compliance inspections?

It is widely known amongst businesses in almost all sectors that in order for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to effectively enforce their standards and regulations they must conduct safety inspections. 

However with millions of businesses being regulated and limited resources available OSHA’s intention to inspect every worksite is not feasible, therefore OSHA prioritizes site inspections based on criteria that ranks the seriousness of the possible hazards. 

The worksites are ranked according to the severity of possible violation and criteria used when prioritizing an inspection are as follows: 

  1. Imminent danger. 

Worksites where the risk of death or grave injuries are likely to occur are considered the highest priority worksites for OSHA to inspect. Due to the standards and regulations in place this is not a common occurrence however in some cases where serious injuries are a strong possibility, such as a construction site, OSHA will prioritize these inspections. If the inspection shows that there are many violations occurring then OSHA will instruct the business to correct the violations or demand that employees be evacuated immediately. 

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  1. Employee injuries and illnesses.

In order for a business to remain compliant with OSHA they are required to maintain a record book of all the employee incidents or deaths that occur on the worksite, as these reports form the basis of OSHA’s second inspection criteria. 

While these incidences are usually collected and maintained on a cloud based occupational health and safety app they must also be reported. Work related deaths must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours and serious injuries, such as the loss of a limb, within 24 hours. 

Reports usually lead to OSHA inspecting the premises. The intention of the inspection is to gain an understanding of what contributed to the injury or death and correct the hazard.  

  1. Worker complaints. 

Complaints sent to OSHA will always be deemed extremely important and considered a high priority as they directly relate to an employees rights, it is for these reasons that they provide a basis for an OSHA inspection. Complaints can be done anonymously and upon arrival for the inspection OSHA will conduct private interviews with some of the employees. These interviews with employees will remain private. 

  1. Referrals of Hazards 

These inspections are carried out by OSHA after a referral from a federal or local organization who often have insight on possible hazards on the worksite. In some cases inspections can be prompted after a journalist or media organizations reveals hazards through an investigation. 

  1. Targeted inspections. 

Certain industries are more high risk and prone to more accidents when compared to others, such as the mining or construction sector are examples of these high risk industries. OSHA will prioritize these sites as the possibility of an incident occurring or an employee succumbing to an illness after exposure to certain environments is far more likely. 

  1. Follow up inspections. 

While there is a common misconception that these inspections are considered a low  priority this is not true. These inspections are often held after one of the previous inspections stated above has been conducted, for example if an employee has been injured on site OSHA will then conduct an inspection and provide the company with a citation. These are not penalties but should be considered a report that addresses safety hazards and violations. Once a company has received a citation they will be provided with a certain amount of time to implement corrective measures, after this has been done then OSHA will return to conduct a follow up inspection. 

The intention of a follow up inspection is to ensure that the hazards previously highlighted have been corrected and appropriate safety measures have been put in place. 

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Once the first inspection has been completed and a citation has been received a business can do the following while preparing for a follow up inspection: 

  • Copy and post the citation at the scene of the violation or within a prominent spot in the workplace until the hazard has been corrected. The hazard must be corrected within three days. 
  • Review the citation and take note of the possible penalties. A thorough understanding will assist a business in deciding how they may proceed. 
  • Perform corrective measures, these must be taken within the time frame provided by OSHA, this is usually thirty days, in extreme cases thirty extra days will be provided.    

While follow up inspections are there to ensure a company has attended to the hazards previously highlighted it does not mean an inspector will not monitor for new violations that could have occurred, preparing for a follow up inspection is vital. As many companies will now have experience with the inspection process, preparations can be streamlined. 

We can see from the article above that OSHA takes an extremely methodical approach when conducting their inspections. The priorities show us that the health and safety of employees is of utmost importance to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and through an understanding of what they look for a businesses can remain compliant. 

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