What brings OSHA to your doorstep?

Written by Noelle Holladay True (true@rwktlaw.com)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has jurisdiction over more than 100 million workplaces.  Since OSHA cannot possibly inspect all of these workplaces, it has established a system of inspection priorities for itself.  The following are  situations which trigger an OSHA inspection, listed in order of the priority that OSHA places upon each category:

  1. Imminent Danger Situations.  If there is a situation with a reasonable certainty to cause imminent death or serious physical harm, OSHA will step in immediately.  These situations take top priority.  OSHA will ask the employer to voluntarily abate the hazard, and if the employer refuses or fails to do that, OSHA may seek an injunction prohibiting further work until the dangerous conditions are removed.
  2. Accidents and Fatalities.  If a fatality or accident (resulting in the hospitalization of three or more employees) occurs, OSHA will investigate to determine the cause and to see if any OSHA standards were violated.
  3. Complaints.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives employees the right to request an OSHA inspection if there is a belief of imminent danger from a hazard, or a belief that an OSHA violation that could result in physical harm.  If such a complaint is made, OSHA will keep the complaint confidential and will inform the employee of any resulting action it takes.
  4. Programmed Inspections.  Next in priority are planned inspections of selected high-risk industries on the basis of such factors such as injury rates, citation history, and toxic exposure.  OSHA may also include random selection as a partof its inspection program.
  5. Follow-up Inspections.  If an employer has been previously cited, OSHA will come back to inspect and determine if the violation has been abated.

These are OSHA’s list of priorities.  But the safest bet is to keep a clean house, and always be prepared for OSHA to arrive at your door.



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