You can’t predict an OSHA inspection. OSHA doesn’t work on a site-by-site list to plan its inspection cycles. Instead, they perform random inspections and respond to incidents or complaints.
That means instead of planning for a set inspection time, you need to make sure your site is prepared for an inspection at all times. Here’s how to be ready if OSHA shows up at your doorstep.
Assign a Contact Person
Assign someone to speak with the safety inspector. This may be a safety manager, the site owner, or someone designated in your union contract. Once you’ve picked your representative, make sure there’s a backup in place, in case he or she is off-site or out sick.
Your representative should be knowledgeable about your safety procedures, guidelines for showing the inspector around, and how to identify an actual safety inspector. (Hint: Ask for identification and don’t hesitate to call your local OSHA office to confirm their identity!)
Designate a quiet location where you can sit down with the safety inspector. At this point, the inspector should explain why you are being inspected and provide a copy of any complaint that may have been filed (minus anything that might identify the complainant). You should also learn what is going to be inspected or observed, as well as how to contest any citations.
Be Prepared with Information
Your representative must be prepared to provide the inspector with site information, including the type of work you perform, how many employees you have, the names of individuals in charge, and any relevant contact information.
The inspector may also request company files related to such things as injuries or illnesses. The more easily you can produce this information, the better prepared you will appear to the inspector.
The professionalism of your safety representative says a lot about your safety protocol. A three-piece suit isn’t necessary (and should probably be avoided if you run a construction site), but your representative should present information clearly, take a friendly tone, and avoid coming across as adversarial, regardless of the situation.
Keep the Inspector Safe
Before you do a walk around with the inspector, make sure he or she is prepared. Provide coveralls and a hardhat. Insist on them following all the safety procedures you require for your employees.
Instruct your representative and employees to be open and honest with the safety inspector. Lying to an inspector or deliberately avoiding a question can only hurt your site. If someone doesn’t know an answer, they should offer to find out that information…and then do it!
If OSHA does pay you a visit this year, hopefully everything will go well. But if it doesn’t, don’t worry. After an inspection you will be informed of any issues that were detected, and then it may take up to six months for OSHA to file any citations. Don’t wait for that to happen. Fix the issues as soon as possible. That way, if you are cited, you’re ready for it. And if you’re not, your site will still be safer!
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