An employee is not only entitled to a competitive salary but also to a safe working environment. It is the responsibility of every employer to ensure the safety of the employees and provide them with a healthy workspace. Therefore, every business goes through frequent audits under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970.
What is OSHA?
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a department under the United States Department of Labor. It identifies an employee’s right to a safe workplace and enforces the laws and regulations that govern it.
It also provides training, assistance, and education on the importance of workplace safety. In addition, OSHA inspects high-risk worksites (e.g., construction ) to check if all the necessary safety precautions have been taken.
What Kind of Businesses Fall Under OSHA’s Radar?
Typically, businesses and companies that have more than ten employees fall under OSHA’s radar. And almost all companies are required to follow OSHA Regulations. High-risk jobs are more prone to receive a surprise on-site visit from OSHA inspectors.
However, small businesses with ten or fewer employees from low-risk domains like bakeries, retail stores, and salons might be exempted. For these businesses, the state might vest local inspectors with the power for regular inspection.
4 Important Things About OSHA Audits You Should Know
OSHA has an extensive list of rules and regulations to ensure a healthy work environment.
However, it is not just the rules and regulations you need to be aware of. You also need to know your basic rights during these inspections and what exactly you should do when the inspector arrives.
- There is generally no prior notice for OSHA inspections. Even in the rare cases when OSHA does send prior notice, it’s not more than 24 hours. However, you do have the right to ask for a warrant before permitting the compliance officer into the worksite.
- You need to have a designated person ready to greet the inspector. You should also have a pre-assigned inspection team who will assist the compliance officer during the inspection.
- When the inspector presents his credentials, which generally includes a photograph and a serial number, verify it at the nearest OSHA office. This will reduce the probability of a fraudster scamming you in the name of inspection.
- OSHA inspectors are not allowed to collect fines or promote/sell any product during their visit. If someone does so, it’s definitely someone impersonating an OSHA inspector. In this case, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement department.
How to Survive an OSHA Audit
As an employer, the need to abide by safety regulations shouldn’t just arise when an OSHA audit inspection is around the corner; it is your basic duty. If you have taken necessary measures for your employees’ safety, you don’t need to worry about OSHA knocking at your door.
However, if an inspection does take place, here is everything you need to know to survive an OSHA Audit.
1. Remember to Report All Injuries And Accidents
Hiding workplace accidents might be a great short-term solution to escape OSHA’s radar, but if someone from the organization reports it to OSHA, you can expect to land in some serious trouble. However, you can avoid unnecessary complications and heavy fines by registering all the accidents at your organization through their injury tracking application released every August.
2. Understand What Can Trigger an OSHA Audit
If you find out what triggers an inspection, you can take measures not to set it off.
There are two types of OSHA audits- Programmed & Unprogrammed. The programmed audits fall under their usual inspection routine and are mainly focused on high-risk jobs. Employee complaints and fatal accidents trigger unprogrammed audits. While avoiding a programmed audit is not in your hand, you can certainly avoid unexpected OSHA audits by taking necessary workplace safety precautions.
3. Familiarize Yourself With The Inspection Process
Familiarising yourself with the inspection process will help you avoid surprises. The inspection starts with the inspector sharing his credentials and a brief explanation of the purpose of his visit. Next, the inspector will analyze and evaluate the employee workspace to see if you have violated any rules. The inspection ends with a closing conference where you will be given feedback.
4. Create an I2P2 For Your Organization
An I2P2 is a written injury and illness protection program. It’s a comprehensive plan that identifies the potential causes of accidents and chalks out a plan to protect your employees. It also assigns accountability for any unfortunate incident that occurs to you. This plan helps you identify potential hazards before an accident can occur.
5. Do Not Try to Interfere With The Inspection
If you do not cooperate with the inspection or try to hinder the process in any way, you might have serious legal trouble. If you limit the inspector’s search or prevent them from talking to the employees, things can turn ugly for you. Instead, cooperate with them and hand over every document they ask for. This will ensure a smooth and trouble-free inspection unless you have violated any safety guidelines.
6. Apply For Variance in Case You Are Found Guilty of Violating Regulations
If you have violated a rule, there is a provision to apply for a variance. Sometimes, you might not be able to comply with new safety regulations on time owing to a shortage of resources. In that case, you might qualify for a variance (a regulatory action pardoning you for the deviation from OSHA laws). However, make sure you do not fake a shortage of resources for variance. OSHA runs a thorough check on all of your company records and is likely to find any cover-ups.
Wrapping It up
While most businesses are not prone to receive sudden visits from OSHA, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the process and prepare in advance. Your employees’ safety is your legal and moral responsibility. Since inspections can be triggered by employee complaints, investing in their safety can help you save lives as well as escape heavy fines.
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