July/August  2002

     Safe Sense
Workplace Tips

Surprise Visit
What Takes Place When OSHA Conducts An Inspection
by Bill Carson

On occasion, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors will want to conduct an inspection of your facility to make sure that you are complying with OSHA regulations. The following article will inform you on what you can expect if you are faced with such an inspection.

The Inspection
In the opening conference, an OSHA inspector will review the company’s safety program and OSHA record-keeping requirements with a company representative. He will review OSHA laws and regulations and will choose an employee representative for a walk-around inspection.

During the walk-around inspection, the OSHA inspector, company representative and employee representative tour the shop, job site, office, plant, store, etc., looking for safety violations. OSHA notes violations and interviews employees during this tour.

During the closing conference, the OSHA inspector will review findings from the inspection. He will discuss possible fines and/or abatement period, which is the period of time a company has to correct any safety violation. OSHA will also respond to the company by registered letter with a list of proposed citations, fines and abatement dates.

After receiving OSHA’s letter, the company has 15 days to appeal all or part of the violations or penalties stated in the registered letter.

Citations, fines and abatement periods become final and binding; there is no appeal or change to these. 

After the abatement period expires, the OSHA inspector returns to the establishment to re-inspect and make sure all safety violations have been corrected within the allotted abatement periods. Abatement dates must be met or fines will be increased. Fines are to be paid immediately unless a special payment agreement has been made with OSHA.

Things to Avoid
When an OSHA inspector visits your facility, there are definite “don’ts” that you want to remember: 

• Don’t admit to any violation and don’t sign anything without a disclaimer. The inspector will make a note of any admission by a company employee and issue a citation. Often, company representatives incorrectly admit a violation when none exists.

• Don’t allow your employees to use or be around other companies’ equipment or machines unless you are certain the equipment meets OSHA requirements. 

• Don’t have an unrealistic company safety program. Remember, a violation of your own safety program will be a citation under the general duty clause.

•Don’t penalize, censure, threaten or fire any employee for anything the employee says to the OSHA inspector. There are criminal fines and jail time involved with such violations.

•Don’t provide respirators, dust masks or fire extinguishers to employees without training them first and documenting that they have been trained.

•Don’t let a new employee begin work until he/she has been trained in the safety procedures related to his/her job.

An OSHA inspection can be a nerve-racking situation, but hopefully this information lets you know what to expect and gives you some hints on what not to do before and during an OSHA inspection. 

Bill Carson is manager of Mancon LLC of Lake Mary, Fla. He has spent more than 15 years developing, managing and supervising training programs for the building products industry. As a service to SHELTER readers, Mr. Carson is available for your safety questions at 407/330-1698. 


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