If you own or operate a small or medium-sized business, you know that surprise inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can be a frightening prospect. If inspectors find that your workplace doesn’t meet safety standards, you can face sanctions, fines, and even criminal penalties.
Clearly, the stakes are high.
While OSHA can’t inspect all of the 7 million worksites it’s responsible for, you have to be ready. After looking at OSHA’s budget, Manufacturing.net concluded that 2015 would be “the year of inspections.” And the agency has issued a variety of new regulations and has increased the list of employer types that are required to maintain injury and illness records.
Fines can be steep. While technical violations can carry only a reprimand, willful violations — purposely failing to follow an OSHA regulation — can carry fines up to $70,000 should someone get hurt. Repeated violations can soar even higher.
What can you do to prepare for an OSHA inspection? Fortunately, with the help of some easy-to-use, affordable technology and solid planning, you can get organized, have a safe workplace for employees, and avoid fines and violations.
One key aspect of getting prepared is putting an OSHA inspection plan in place. Without a plan, your workers might offer too much information, required documents may not be in order, and the likelihood that you will be fined goes way up.
Just like practicing for any emergency, this plan will keep you and any employees calm and prevent anyone from revealing more than is necessary. Having a good plan in place will give you some control over the OSHA inspection, make a good impression on the inspector, and lead to fewer violations. Here is how to get started with your plan:
Assemble an inspection team including:
- Management Representative or Safety Officer — This person is charged with recording everything that happens, making decisions about where and what the inspector can observe, and answering the inspector’s questions.
- Photographer — A team member should photograph everything that the OSHA inspector photographs.
- Document controller — This person has access to all the documents that the inspector might request. Mobile apps are useful here so that this team member has access to everything he or she needs on a tablet and can refer to checklists on last dates of self-inspections and who conducted them.
Prep your team for interviews by OSHA inspectors. Make sure everyone understands their rights in this situation. Employees should answer questions specifically and truthfully, but not volunteer any additional information. They will probably spend no more than 10-15 minutes with an inspector.
Conduct regular “surprise” inspections. In additional to regular self-inspections, surprising your team with mock inspections that are true to OSHA inspections helps set the stage for the real thing. Ask for documents and practice an interview, if possible.
Assiduously maintain safety records. Make sure your document controller keeps tight control of safety training records, anything related to injury and illness, and hazardous materials communication.
For all the details on prepping your organization for the OSHA inspector, download our new eBook, “4 Steps to Prepare for OSHA Safety Inspections.” It offers depth and detail on being ready when the inspector comes calling.
What else is in the eBook?
- OSHA’s inspection priorities and lists of most-cited hazards.
- Tips on how to develop safety checklists unique to your business.
- More detail on creating your own OSHA inspection plan.
- Notes on what to do on inspection day — and after.