Before we dive into anything else, realize that OSHA inspectors have the right to show up at any time. While it is not illegal to refuse them access to your job site, an inspector can simply return with a warrant if you don’t comply. The good news for contractors is that OSHA has over 7 million businesses to monitor across all industries, which means that if you take project site safety seriously and avoid injuries, you might not have to worry about them at all. Below, we have listed the official reasons why OSHA performs inspections in order of priority. If you have recently been cited, partnering with an OSHA attorney will give you a chance to protect your business.
When an Employee Succumbs to Injury or Death
According to OSHA record-keeping standards, all businesses must report work-related fatalities within eight hours, while employers must report all hospitalizations within twenty-four hours. Due to this tight timeline, many contractors who fail to report in a timely manner find themselves being contacted by OSHA inspectors looking to see if the death or injury was the fault of the employer.
When an Employee Complains
OSHA has made it easy for employees to confidentially complain about work safety, and the Whistleblower Protection Act protects these workers from facing any company retributions for reporting their concerns to OSHA. Essentially, any disgruntled worker could alert OSHA of something at any time — so always be prepared by having at least one OSHA lawyer’s contact info on hand.
When Federal, State, or Local Agencies Deem it Necessary
This kind of inspection is exactly what it sounds like — any level within the government can urge OSHA to perform an inspection of an unsafe workplace. There have even been instances where stories published by the media have given government agencies enough reason to send an OSHA inspector.
When You Work in a High-Risk Industry
In high-risk industries like construction, where newer employees aren’t familiar with how to properly use safety equipment, there is a much higher probability for workplace accidents. Many similar industries have higher-than-average rates for injury or death, placing them firmly at the center of OSHA’s inspection priorities.
When Checking Up on Previously Inspected Sites
As the most predictable type of inspection that holds the least amount of priority, follow-up inspections follow a prior inspection to ensure that all identified OSHA violations have been taken care of. While the purpose of these inspections is to verify that the contractor has done their duty to become compliant, do not let other standards slip, because the OSHA inspector could penalize you for any new issues, too. Additionally, for certain targeted industries or repeat violators, these inspections may receive a higher priority and be performed quicker than usual.
When Death or Injury Is Imminent
While this is the least common reason for an OSHA inspector visit, understand that it can carry the most severe consequences. This kind of inspection is conducted when it has been determined that employees or workers are in imminent danger of being harmed. The determination can come about for a variety of reasons, but one thing is certain: the project site will be shut down until all safety concerns are addressed.
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.