The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation. It is authorized to conduct workplace inspections to determine if companies are complying with its standards for safe and healthy workplaces.It should be noted that OSHA inspections can happen at any time at any workplace covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Because of the enormous number of such workplaces, OSHA has established a system of priorities for its inspections. These are, in order of importance:
- Imminent danger: Any condition/situation that can be expected to cause death or serious physical harm.
- Catastrophes and fatalities: Situations that result in fatalities or three or employees being hospitalized.
- Employee complaints: Formal employee complaints of alleged safety and health violations or unsafe or unhealthy working conditions.
- Programmed high-hazard inspection: Planned inspections at specific high-hazard industries and occupations.
- Follow-up inspections: Done to ensure that previously cited violations have been corrected.
DO NOT ASSUME
If your organization has never been through an OSHA inspection, or it has been years since your last one, it is common to be somewhat lax with OSHA compliance, according to officials with Business & Legal Reports (BLR), a leading provider of compliance and training solutions in the areas of human resources, compensation, safety and environmental areas (www.blr.com). Training new employees on the rules, and refresher training for current employees, often takes a back seat to other matters.
Never assume that your employees are aware of the OSHA standards, that they follow the rules and that they would never report a potential violation or hazardous situation to OSHA, they say.
To avoid unnecessarily triggering an inspection, and to be prepared should an inspection occur, BLR officials recommend developing an effective compliance plan that incorporates five key elements:
- Knowledge and implementation of all relevant OSHA regulations.
- Regular communication with employees and employee representatives about working conditions and worker safety.
- Robust and effective safety and health training programs.
- Well communicated and consistently enforced safety rules.
- A clear understanding of what an OSHA inspection entails.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
If you know what unsafe conditions and hazards are in your workplace, you can take measures to remedy them, say officials at J.J. Keller & Associates, the nation’s leader in risk and regulatory management solutions (www.jjkeller.com). That will help you be in compliance with OSHA standards.
Moreover, the more you know about the safety and health requirements that pertain to your company’s operation, and different ways to improve them, the better you can manage your organization in general.
Officials at both J.J. Keller and BLR stress the importance of having a designated person responsible for staying current on applicable OSHA regulations and with the rules governing inspections. They say it is a good idea for companies to design and conduct their own safety and health self-audits in order to stay in OSHA compliance and prepare for an OSHA inspection.
Safety audits also encourage and maintain employee interest in safety.
The officials further recommend regularly walking through your workplace to identify recognizable hazards and problem areas.
It is also important to make sure safety and health rules are enforced. Having posted signs that are routinely ignored, outdated or unneeded, along with having rules that are given lip service or only casually enforced, can undermine safety efforts.
Safety training should be reinforced on a regular basis, as should identifying needs for additional training, say BLR officials. Always involve workers in making the workplace safe. Heightening safety awareness pays dividends in compliance, as well as in the quality of a company’s workplace.