Friday, November 2, 2012

What triggers an OSHA inspection - and how to reduce them in your workplace

While everyone wants to have the kind of safety program which protects employees, protects the company's bottom line and keeps OSHA inspectors happy, one wants to keep OSHA inspections at their workplace to a minimum.

If you're a safety compliance officer, or if your job involves running operations on a project site or in a plant, or you deal with these issues at an administrative level, you should know what can trigger an OSHA inspection. Do more to avoid these things and you'll save yourself a lot of trouble, save your employer some money and in the process of eliminating what gets the attention of OSHA, you'll likely reduce your workplace exposure to hazards.

There are two kinds of inspections: unprogrammed, which are inspections which come up in response to situations that may arise, and programmed, which are planned and scheduled inspections (as determined by your state's OSH staff) and most employers (read on to find out why I say "most") can expect from time-to-time.

To help better clarify what can initiative an unprogrammed inspection, Page 9-3 of the OSHA'S Field Operations Manual warns that an "inspection is normally warranted if at least one of the conditions below is met", defining the conditions as including:

  • A valid formal employee complaint;
  • A signed, written complaint of an employee alleging a serious safety violation;
  • Information that a permanently disabling injury or illness has occurred and the hazard relating to that incident still exists;
  • Information alleging an imminent danger;
  • Information relating to an alleged hazard covered by a local, regional or national emphasis program;
  • An employer inquiry is not adequately addressed;
  • The employer has a history of violations or is part of the Enhanced Enforcement Program;
  • A whistleblower has alleged discrimination for complaining about workplace safety issues;
  • A minor issue is raised when an inspection has already been scheduled or begun for another reason; and
  • Information gives reasonable grounds to believe a minor (under 18) is exposed to hazardous workplace conditions.

  • (T)here are several avenues through which a “programmed” inspection can begin.  Programmed inspections are those inspections that are part of a “neutral inspection program” in which employers in certain industries are randomly targeted for inspections.  If OSHA has targeted an industry for additional oversight, then an individual employer in that industry is more likely to be selected any given year unless they have been removed from the selection list.  Under certain circumstances, employers may temporarily or permanently removed from the list for a programmed inspection if they meet the following criteria (set forth in OSHA Directive CPL 02-00-025 – Scheduling System for Programmed Inspections):
    • “Safety inspection–Any comprehensive programmed or focused safety inspection or a substantially complete unprogrammed safety inspection conducted within the current or previous five (5) fiscal years.”
    • “Health inspection–A substantially complete or focused health inspection was conducted within the current or previous five (5) fiscal years with no serious violations cited; or, where serious violations were cited, an acceptable abatement letter or a follow-up inspection has documented ‘good faith’ efforts to abate all serious hazards.”
    Additionally, Section 3-14 of the Field Operations Manual states that “employers who participate in selected voluntary compliance programs may be exempted from programmed inspections.”  These compliance programs include OSHA On-Site Consultation Visits, the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, and the Voluntary Protection Program.

    So what are YOU doing to improve compliance and reduce the number of OSHA inspections?


    Post a Comment