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A Primer on OSHA Workplace Inspections

Federal law requires employers to meet a minimum standard of workplace safety to help prevent workplace accidents. Those standards are set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is responsible not only for creating workplace safety regulations, but also for inspecting workplaces to ensure that employers are complying with those regulations.

When Do Inspections Occur?

There are over 7 million workplaces in the United States and OSHA does not have the resources to inspect all of them. The agency is forced to prioritize its inspections on the most dangerous workplaces. OSHA inspections are generally prompted by one of the following:

  • Workplace Accidents & Injuries – Employers are required to report any workplace accident or injury to OSHA. Once the report has been made, that generally prompts OSHA to send an investigator to the workplace to inspect it for safety violations.
  • Complaints – Complaints are another common way investigations are prompted. Workers who feel their workplace is unsafe are able to send anonymous tips to OSHA.
  • Referrals – Sometimes OSHA receives tips from local or state government officials, independent agencies, or the media that a particular workplace may be hazardous.
  • Follow-Ups – If OSHA finds safety violations during one of its inspections, the agency will follow up after a period of time to re-inspect the workplace to ensure that the violations have been corrected.
  • Planned Investigations – These occur in industries that have particularly high rates of injuries or fatalities. Dangerous industries such as offshore drilling are prioritized for regular inspections.

What Occurs During an Inspection?

All OSHA inspections follow the same three part process.

  • Opening Conference - All inspections begin with an OSHA investigator presenting the employer with official credentials. The investigator than conducts an opening conference with the employer. During the opening conference, the investigator will explain why the workplace was chosen for inspection and give an overview of the inspection process. The employer will then select a company representative to accompany the investigator during the inspection.
  • Walk-Through – The walk-through is the actual inspection of the workplace. The investigator will inspect the entire workplace looking for any potential safety hazards or non-compliance with safety regulations. The investigator may also request private interviews with key employees to inquire about workplace safety.
  • Closing Conference – After the walk-through, the investigator will conduct a closing conference with the employer to discuss the findings of the inspection and suggests methods of correcting any safety violations that were discovered. Depending on how serious the violations are, OSHA may issue a citation.

Importance of OSHA Inspections

OSHA inspections are critical to ensuring workplace safety in the United States. Research has found that OSHA inspections reduce the number of on-the-job injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace accident caused by a workplace safety violation, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the workplace injury lawyers at Arnold & Itkin to learn about your legal rights.