How To Prepare for an OSHA Safety Inspection

Plenty of owners of small- and medium-sized businesses find the prospect of having an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection scary, especially since the agency is now inspecting businesses from bakeries and liquor stores, to construction companies, tire stores, and performing arts companies.

But you can be ready for OSHA.

Knowing what to expect, and using some easy-to-use technology, can help even small- and medium-sized businesses without large safety budgets feel like they are equipped if OSHA comes calling. This article will cover four steps you can take to prepare for OSHA inspections, and avoid fines and violations.

  1. Understand OSHA’s inspection priorities and most-cited hazards
  2. Develop safety checklists unique to your business
  3. Put an OSHA inspection plan in place
  4. Know what to do on inspection day — and after

OSHA inspection planning is critical for almost every type of business. Continue reading this article for our guide to OSHA Safety Inspections.

While OSHA doesn’t break down its more than 70,000 or so annual inspections by industry, it does offer a list of its top 10 most-cited violations. Think of these as “trouble spots” you should concentrate on addressing. In 2020, these were the top 10 most frequently cited standards by OSHA. 

  1.     Fall Protection—General Requirements (§1926.501): 5,424 violations
  2.     Hazard Communication (§1910.1200): 3,199 violations
  3.     Respiratory Protection (§1910.134): 2,649 violations
  4.     Scaffolding (§1926.451): 2,538 violations
  5.     Ladders (§1926.1053): 2,129 violations
  6.     Lockout/Tagout (§1910.147): 2,065 violations
  7.     Powered Industrial Trucks (§1910.178): 1,932 violations
  8.     Fall Protection—Training Requirements (§1926.503): 1,621 violations
  9.     Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment—Eye and Face Protection (§1926.102): 1,369 violations
  10.     Machine Guarding (§1910.212): 1,313 violations

Three out of the top 10 most-cited violations — fall protection, scaffolding, and ladders — involve construction standards. Not surprisingly, the construction industry remains among the industries most frequently inspected by OSHA.

The agency can’t possibly inspect all 7 million workplaces that it covers. Here is how OSHA decides where to go:

  • Referrals or tips. Hazard information reported by government agencies, nonprofits, the media, and individuals often prompts an investigation.
  • Employee Complaints. Employees can request anonymity when filing complaints and such allegations often warrant OSHA follow-up.
  • Follow ups. OSHA frequently conducts follow-up inspections to previous visits, so stay prepared.

OSHA may have issued you a “checklist” when you opened your business, but that’s just a starting place.

That’s because the agency’s inspectors additionally develop their own policies for specific industries via the “General Duty” clause. They can then use it to cite workplaces for violations of regulations that aren’t written down. And they do it. It’s clear that as a business owner, you can’t simply follow OSHA’s safety checklist and take a nap.

You’re responsible for creating and maintaining your own safety checklists and procedures specific to your industry and workplace – and then for keeping those checklists up-to-date and following them.

  • Start with what OSHA delivered to you
  • Take a look at the most cited violations list
  • Inspect your workplace to find any other potential violations that might likely occur
  • Create more than one checklist – one for the front office, and other for the primary worksite itself

Then get employees from each area to take turns checking for and recording any hazards they encounter on a regular basis – some items only monthly, others every day. (You’ll want to develop safety inspection calendars to guide inspection efforts in each area.)

Now, this is where mobile application technology comes in.Moving from paper checklists to mobile apps, which can be customized to your company’s unique and varying needs, can make your OSHA compliance efforts much easier and more effective.With mobile checklists, you:

  • Enter data in real time and that data is not only stored in the cloud, but can be immediately shared with a supervisor or manager, minimizing response times
  • Create a variety of inspection checklists for various tasks and sites – all accessible from a smartphone or tablet
  • Update your mobile apps as OSHA guidelines evolve and change to reflect changes and immediately deploy the information across your organization
  • Your mobile checklists are not only more flexible than the paper versions, ensuring that your business is in compliance with the latest regulations, but employees will never again have to drag around a big binder while doing a self-inspection or making copies of paper checklists.

Mobile data will also offer insight into:

  • What are your common problem areas?
  • Which of your safety procedures are redundant?
  • Which employees are completing safety checks regularly?
  • Which team members are wearing the proper protective clothing and equipment?
  • Which employees are safety leaders? Safety violators?

Now that you’ve made your checklists and safety self-inspection calendars, you have to prepare for the inevitable:the day an OSHA inspector shows up. What happens and what do you really need to be ready for?

First, you need to put together a day-of-inspection plan. Doing so will give you some control over the OSHA inspection, make a good impression on the inspector, and – most importantly – result in fewer violations. Assemble an inspection team, including:

  • Representative from management. A member of senior management or your dedicated safety officer. He or she is charged with recording everything that happens, making decisions about where and what the inspector can observe, and answering questions.
  • Photographer. Always photograph everything the OSHA inspector photographs.
  • Document controller. To have access to all the documents the inspector might request. This is where mobile form apps are extremely useful. Your document controller will be able to access everything he or she needs with a few swipes of a tablet.

Due to changing priorities and regulations, OSHA may shift its focus to any business or industry at any time. It’s important to prepare your team in advance and here are a few tips:

  • Practice Interview Questions. Prep your team for likely employee interviews and understand your rights. They should answer questions specifically and truthfully, but not volunteer any additional information.
  • Hold Surprise Inspections. Try to make these mock inspections as true to an OSHA inspection as you can. Get pushy: For instance, “demand” documents that your team members aren’t supposed to give up.
  • Create Mobile Checklists in Advance. Use mobile checklists to help you prepare for OSHA inspection day. Besides self-inspection checklists, mobile apps can help you create your inspection plan, manage “surprise” inspections, and organize all those regulatory documents.

Make sure you understand what rights your team has if the OSHA inspector arrives and be sure to test your team’s knowledge in advance.

No matter how well you prepare, OSHA might find something that you need to correct. But with proper preparation, you’ll be much less likely to be cited for serious violations. Most importantly, you’ll have a strong system in place to keep your employees safe and free from workplace hazards.

By tapping into the power of mobile apps and cloud-based technology, you can ensure that your business is more than ready to welcome OSHA inspectors when they come calling.

By using mobile apps to create safety checklists, analyze your business’ safety program and trouble spots, and implement corrective action, you’ll avoid injuries and safety violations — keeping you off OSHA’s radar in the first place.

GoCanvas has a wide variety of OSHA mobile apps that can help make your business safer. Get in touch to find out how cloud-based data collection can take your OSHA compliance efforts to an entirely new level.

GoCanvas has a wide variety of OSHA mobile apps that can help make your business safer. Get in touch to find out how cloud-based data collection can take your OSHA compliance efforts to an entirely new level. 

Easy-to-use software. Creating checklists to inspect and regularly record hazards and correct them can keep you clear of fines. Making those checklists mobile keeps data at hand and accurate.

Accessible documentation. Mobile apps ensure that the appropriate people have access to important documents in real time and employees know their roles in case of an audit.

Improve safety compliance. In the majority of cases, OSHA’s inspections are not announced in advance. You have to be prepared at all times and mobile apps like GoCanvas can help to ensure compliance and lower your risk.

Sign up for your free trial of GoCanvas today or contact our team to learn more about GoCanvas for Safety Compliance.

3 Key Benefits of Software for Mobile Forms

Still not sure about moving to software for capturing form data? Here are some of the key outcomes companies have seen when implementing software platforms for mobile data:

  • Increase Productivity. Mobile forms can improve annual productivity by 28% and show an ROI in 6 months.
  • Cost Savings. A company can lose hundreds of hours in manual data entry. Mobile forms save an average of $40,000 in year one.
  • Lowered Risk. Companies that implemented mobile form software report that they have reduced their risk and liability by 18%

About GoCanvas

GoCanvas® is on a mission to simplify inspections and maximize compliance. Our intuitive platform takes care of the administrative tasks, freeing our customers to focus on what truly matters – safeguarding their people, protecting their equipment, and delivering exceptional quality to their customers. 

Since 2008, thousands of companies have chosen GoCanvas as their go-to partner for seamless field operations.

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