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Understanding OSHA’s Inspection Priorities

In 2018, the total number of federal inspections conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), surpassed 32,000 in total. For State Plan inspections, the total number nearly reached 41,000. OSHA’s budget continues to increase annually and the federal agency is committed to monitoring job sites and issuing citations to workplaces that are in violation of their rules and regulations.

Regardless of the size of your construction project, if you breach OSHA’s health and safety standards, you may be penalized. In this brief article, a Texas OSHA lawyer will discuss the priority system used by the government agency to perform safety inspections. Understanding OSHA’s priority system may just help you avoid a citation. Remember, if you were issued a citation by OSHA and you want to challenge this penalty, our Texas OSHA attorneys are only a phone call away.

OSHA’s Three Top Priorities for Inspection

It’s important to understand OSHA’s methods for conducting an investigation to ensure that you remain compliant with their safety standards. OSHA has a priority system in place for inspecting a workplace that includes the following:

  • First Priority: OSHA’s primary reason for conducting an immediate inspection is to asses cases that are considered “an imminent danger.” These situations are defined as “a workplace hazard that puts you at immediate serious risk of death or serious physical harm.” Examples of imminent danger include an unstable trench, exposed electrical wiring, or exposure to fumes, gases, and toxic substances.
  • Second Priority: OSHA’s second priority includes situations involving a fatality or catastrophe. Any accident that results in three or more hospitalized workers will require OSHA to investigate the work area where the incident transpired. It’s important to note that employers are legally required to report any of these types of incidents within eight hours of the accident occurring.
  • Third Priority: The third priority is the most common form of inspection including those that occur after a complaint is made regarding the safety of the workplace. If OSHA receives a complaint from a worker and believes a safety inspection is warranted, they will begin the process required to conduct an inspection of the workplace.

If you would like to speak with a Texas OSHA lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

OSHA Safety Inspections Using Drones

When an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector arrives at your project site, you want to be certain that your project and all of your workers are in compliance with all of the necessary OSHA rules and regulations governing workplace safety. Dealing with an inspector can be stressful for contractors, and receiving a citation is even more burdensome. Fortunately, if you have been charged with an OSHA violation, an OSHA defense lawyer can help you by responding to citations and providing you with aggressive representation for serious, repeat, and willful violations including citations related to workplace fatalities.

As OSHA continues to grow and evolve, adopting new practices and technology to improve workplace safety, contractors will be forced to adapt to new inspection methods such as those involving the use of drones. In this article, an OSHA defense attorney will discuss OSHA’s use of drones to perform safety inspections.

OSHA Takes to the Skies to Improve Safety

OSHA is an organization dedicated to assuring “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”

In 2018, OSHA published a memorandum discussing the use of camera-equipped drones to assist inspectors with evidence collection during inspections. In short, this memorandum allows OSHA inspectors to develop a more comprehensive report on the safety and health conditions of project sites. As an OSHA inspector conducts an in-person inspection, they may also pilot a drone to reveal safety violations from a much higher vantage point. For contractors, this new process naturally raises some red flags.

Should Contractors be Concerned?

There are many reasons why contractors should be wary of allowing OSHA inspectors to perform drone inspections. For example, these inspections could potentially violate an employee’s Fourth Amendment right to “object to the expansion of an overbroad inspection” according to an article published by the National Law Review. If an employee refuses to submit to such an inspection under their Fourth Amendment right, it’s unclear whether or not the OSHA inspection will be ended, or if OSHA will simply seek additional legal backing, such as a search warrant, to proceed with the inspection. While this situation can likely be avoided since the OSHA memorandum notes that inspectors are required to “obtain express consent from the employer” before utilizing a drone to perform inspections, it’s currently unclear how refusal of drone inspections will affect contractors moving forward.

Be Prepared

OSHA is still in the process of establishing drone inspections as the norm, but contractors should prepare themselves for investigations utilizing drones equipped with cameras to collect evidence. If you want to limit your chances of receiving an OSHA citation, consult an OSHA defense lawyer.

If you would like to speak with an OSHA defense attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Does Your Construction Site Have a Safety or Health Hazard Present?

Although contractors do their best to comply with the safety standards governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in some cases, workplace hazards still exist. Unfortunately, when this occurs, the hazard can potentially put some workers present in danger of serious bodily harm or even death. OSHA refers to these occurrences as situations of “imminent danger.” If your job site needs to be inspected by an experienced construction attorney to ensure compliance or if you need aggressive defense against an OSHA citation, consult an experienced Alabama OSHA defense lawyer.

Understanding an Imminent Danger

Is your workplace “at immediate serious risk of death or serious physical harm”? If so, this is what OSHA defines as an imminent danger. It’s also the primary reason for conducting an immediate inspection. Exposed wiring, unstable trenches, airborne toxins or other forms of chemical exposure are all examples of precarious situations that not only put workers’ lives in serious jeopardy, but also increases the likelihood of a worker reporting your job site and, if warranted, an OSHA compliance officer immediately inspecting the workplace.

What Happens When an Imminent Danger is Reported?

If an imminent danger is reported, it can lead to an extensive evaluation process. Ultimately, this can also lead to OSHA instructing that all work near the hazard be temporarily paused and a request that immediate corrective action is performed before work can be re-commenced. This is a scenario that contractors want to avoid. If you refuse to comply with OSHA’s instructions for corrective actions on the job site, this can result in a temporary restraining order from a federal district court with additional penalties.

If a worker makes a complaint on the job site or if they report an alleged safety or health hazard to OSHA, it’s critical that employers do not retaliate against this employee. If the employee experiences an adverse employment action after reporting an alleged hazard, including termination of employment, financial penalization, demotion, or other forms of discipline, the employee may file a retaliation complaint with OSHA. This can result in additional litigation.

A visit from OSHA can result in a wide range of unfavorable scenarios including a workplace being temporarily shut down, excessive fines, and even litigation. It’s best to consult with our Alabama OSHA defense attorneys to ensure your workplace is in compliance with safety and health standards before things get out of hand.

If you would like to speak with an Alabama OSHA defense lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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