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Preparing for an OSHA Inspection

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday we looked at what to expect from an OSHA inspection. Today we move on to how to prepare for an inspection. Being well prepared will help you get the best outcome should OSHA come knocking at your door.

In theory, OSHA inspections do not need a reason to happen. Any organization can be visited at any time by an inspector who need not have any reason to show up except the fact that the workplace is covered by federal safety regulations. In fact, however, the large majority of OSHA inspections happen for specific reasons, including following up on an accident or violation, or because an OSHA initiative has targeted a specific industrial sector or activity, or, especially, because of a complaint about how the organization implements worker safety.

What Will OSHA Look For?

The kinds of violations an inspector looks for depend on the nature of your operations and the particular hazards of your workplace. However, during the past few years, the most-often-cited OSHA violations for
general industry have featured safety and health problems related to:

  • Machine guarding [29 CFR 1910.212]
  • Lockout/tagout [1910.147]
  • Personal protective equipment [1910.132]
  • Hazardous chemical information and training [1910.1200]
  • First-aid and eyewash facilities [1910.151]
  • Walking-working surfaces [1910.23]
  • Respiratory protection [1910.134]
  • Electrical wiring [1910.305]
  • Powered industrial trucks [1910.178]

Do You Have a Plan?

If you have not had an inspector cross your threshold in many years (if ever), it may be tempting to be less than 100 percent rigorous about compliance with all OSHA rules. The effort to train new or transferred employees can be onerous, especially as other pressures increase in our stressed economy.

But you should never assume that your employees are so skilled or knowledgeable that they don’t need more training. And it’s dangerous to assume that employees are so well protected that they would never report a potential violation or hazardous situation to OSHA.

To avoid unnecessarily triggering an inspection, and to be prepared should an inspection occur, you need an effective compliance plan incorporating 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; and
  • A clear understanding of what an OSHA inspection entails.

OSHA provides a checklist to aid businesses in conducting their own self-inspection. This is a great tool to help you not only prepare for an OSHA inspection, but also give you insight on the items such an inspection might cover.

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