Whether brought about by an accident, employee complaint, or random selection, an OSHA inspection can be a sudden and unexpected event. And being caught ill-prepared for the visit can be an expensive mistake.
Here’s why it’s important to be ready at all times and how to ensure that, if OSHA does drop by, the inspection process will go smoothly.
Non-compliance will cost you
With profitability and productivity at stake, the hefty price of an OSHA violation isn’t one most companies can afford — especially if they receive multiple citations. And costs will keep going up. After more than 25 years of not adjusting for inflation, OSHA increased penalties by 78% in 2016 and has continued to raise prices every year since.
It’s also too risky to delay safety measures in the hopes that your facility stays under OSHA’s radar, as their inspection rate has picked up the pace. The agency performed 4% more inspections in 2019 than they did in 2018, making this a record year.
But compliance isn’t just about avoiding fees. It’s also about upholding your company’s reputation. OSHA standards exist to support workplace safety, so staying compliant establishes a company culture that’s committed to protecting its employees.
Understand the procedures
In the event of an inspection, you want to make sure there aren’t any roadblocks that could stall the inspector or reflect poorly on your company. This requires an understanding of inspection procedures and what will be expected of your company and its employees along the way.
After you’ve verified the identity of the inspector, they will provide an overview of the inspection procedures, explain what prompted the visit, and request basic company information. For this purpose, you’ll want to designate a meeting room located away from work areas. This space may also be used for employee interviews later in the inspection process.
You’ll also want to instruct staff on what to do and how to act during an inspection. In every OSHA interaction, the right attitude goes a long way — encourage employees to be polite, respectful, and cooperative while being mindful of their rights. Be sure they’re also aware of their responsibilities. Designate which employees (and their substitutes) will accompany inspectors on walkarounds and which will be responsible for providing requested documents.
During the inspection, it’s a good idea to take notes, photos, measurements, and other records alongside the OSHA representative. You should also request copies of the inspector’s findings at the closing conference. This way, your records of the event will match OSHA’s.
Keep excellent records
Efforts to comply with safety standards are worth little if you don’t have current, accurate documentation to back them up.
To plan for the possibility of OSHA inspection, everything must be present and accounted for, including:
- Training certifications
- Proof of employee qualifications
- Worker compensation records
- Insurance policies
- Incident reports
- Third-party audit results
All these records should be kept up-to-date and on file for the required amount of time. If there’s any confusion about what records you need to keep, update, or discard, you may wish to reach out to a health and safety professional for guidance.
In addition, safety documentation should be easily accessible and organized. This ensures that tracking down data for OSHA won’t be a tedious, time-consuming process. If you rely on physical files, switching to digital recordkeeping methods can help speed up the file search and keep important records at your fingertips.
By the time an inspector points out safety violations, it may be too late to avoid the fines. But you can take steps to identify and eliminate problem areas before OSHA comes to your door.
A good way to find out what you’re doing well and where you may be falling short is to periodically conduct a Gap Analysis Process (GAP) or safety audit. This involves bringing in a service provider like TriMedia to walk through your facility, review your records, pinpoint potential hazards and compliance concerns, and recommend changes to help you achieve your safety goals.
Even if your team is well-versed in OSHA regulations, there is always room for improvement. And an audit like this may reveal areas where you could be doing more to prioritize employee success and safety, which ultimately boosts profits and cuts down on operational costs.
Not sure if you’re ready to pass an OSHA inspection? Contact us to learn how TriMedia can help.