The OSH Act and OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was enacted in 1970 to assure that workers had a safe and healthy working environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was formed in order to carry out this mission, as well as to encourage and assist states by providing research, information, and training while instituting enforceable standards. Since its creation, workplace fatalities have been reduced by over 60 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 40 percent.

On January 15, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) raised civil penalties by 1.8%. The increase is an annual inflation adjustment as required by the Inflation Adjustment Act. The new penalty amounts take effect immediately and are applied to any penalties assessed after January 15.

The penalty increases for workplace safety and health violations include:

Willful Violation – an employer knowingly failed to comply with an OSHA standard or demonstrated a plain indifference for employee safety; minimum penalty increases to $9,639 and maximum penalty increases to $134,937

Repeated Violation – identical or substantially similar violation previously cited by the agency; maximum penalty increases to $134,937

Serious Violation – could cause an accident or illness that would likely result in death or serious physical harm; maximum penalty increases to $13,494

Other-Than-Serious Violation – maximum penalty increases to $13,494

Failure to Correct Violation – maximum penalty increases to $13,494

Posting Requirement Violation – maximum penalty increases to $13,494

OSHA has the authority to inspect, investigate and keep records of employers throughout the United States. OSHA has increased its enforcement efforts focusing on addressing violations, conducting 33,401 inspections in fiscal year 2019, more than the past three years.

Now more than ever, it is important to be prepared for an OSHA inspection. But what actually happens during an OSHA inspection? What can you expect?

 

What happens during an OSHA Inspection?

An OSHA inspection begins with a Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) arriving at your facility and presenting his or her credentials.

  1. Opening Conference

At the opening conference, the compliance officer will explain why OSHA is inspecting the workplace. OSHA may undertake an inspection:

    • when there is imminent danger,
    • due to worker fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye,
    • due to worker complaints,
    • due to referrals from other federal/state/local agencies, individuals, or organizations,
    • as a targeted inspection for a specific high-hazard industry, or a workplace with a high rate of injuries and illnesses,
    • or as a follow-up inspection to verify abatement of violations cited during previous inspections.

The compliance officer will describe the scope of the inspection, go over the walkaround procedures, worker representation, and the need for worker interviews. This is also when you will be asked to select a representative to accompany the compliance officer throughout the inspection.

  1. Walkaround

During the walkaround, the compliance officer and your representative will walk through the areas covered by the inspection and check for any hazards. The compliance officer will also ask workers questions such as:

    • How long have you worked for the company?
    • Have you or anyone else been injured or had close calls on the job?
    • Does the employer provide personal protective equipment (PPE)?
    • How often is training provided and what does it consist of?
    • What would you do to make working conditions safer?

As part of the walkaround, the compliance officer will also review your records, injury and illness logs, and ensure that the official OSHA poster is properly posted.

  1. Closing Conference

At the conclusion of the walkaround, the compliance officer will discuss his or her findings, possible corrective procedures, and reasonable timelines for correction. The compliance officer will also go over other possible courses of action, including an informal conference with OSHA, or contesting the citations.

The best way to avoid citations is to remain vigilant for hazards and continuously improve your safety program to address them. ReSolve can make sure you are well prepared when OSHA comes knocking. Our experienced safety specialists can inspect your site or walk you through a Mock OSHA Audit and provide recommendations to improve your safety program. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.

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