During a visit to your site, an OSHA representative will determine whether you are complying with the agency’s standards for a safe and healthful workplace. OSHA professionals have comprehensive training in safety and industrial hygiene.
Why OSHA May Audit Your Site
OSHA needs to choose carefully what sites it visits in order to provide maximum protection for American workers. If your facility presents an urgent risk, you’re more likely to receive an OSHA audit. The agency prioritizes its visits in the following order:
1. Imminent danger – When OSHA is reasonably certain that danger exists at your site and may cause death or serious physical harm, it inspects your facility first. OSHA will ask you to remove employees from unsafe areas.
2. Catastrophes and fatal accidents – The death or hospitalization of three or more employees in one incident receives second priority for a site inspection. You must report serious accidents like these to OSHA within eight hours.
3. Complaints and referrals – Formal employee complaints and referrals from other sources about workplace dangers receive third priority. OSHA gives employees the right to request an inspection when they feel unsafe on the job.
4. Programmed inspections – OSHA prioritizes high-hazard industries and occupations next. Some industries are more likely to attract an OSHA audit than others due to injury incidence rates, previous citation history and other factors.
5. Follow-up inspections – After an OSHA violation, the agency will follow up to ensure the employer has abated danger. Employers at noncompliant sites may receive daily penalties until they correct violations.
If your site fails an OSHA audit, you may receive one or more of the following fines:
- Serious violations: $1,500 to $7,000
- “Other than serious” violations: Up to $1,000
- Willful violations: Up to $70,000 with a minimum penalty of $5,000
- Repeated violations: Up to $70,000
How To Prepare For An OSHA Audit
You must demonstrate competence and professionalism during an inspection. Identify someone ahead of time to show the inspector around your site. An article from Safety+Health magazine explains that this could be a safety manager or the business owner. You should also choose a backup individual in case the designated person isn’t at work when OSHA visits.
Ensure OSHA inspectors are wearing proper protective gear around your site. While they may bring their own, you should have extra protective equipment on hand in case they require it.
You will need to reserve a private space, such as a conference room, for the OSHA representative to conduct interviews with your employees. Questions usually focus on the type of training offered and take 10 to 15 minutes. Ask your workers to answer honestly.
Your closing conference may take place in person or over the phone. After the conference, OSHA has six months to file citations. OSHA will not ask you to pay fees immediately after an audit or threaten you, both of which are signs of an imposter’s scam. If you have doubts about an inspector, call OSHA yourself using the agency’s phone number.
You probably won’t receive warning of an inspection. So, the best time to make your work site safer is now. If you want to thoroughly prepare for an OSHA audit, follow these essential steps:
- Understand how OSHA fines impact your business
- Keep accurate documentation of accidents and injuries
- Speak with an expert about the risks at your site
- Install all necessary safety equipment
- Train employees to use equipment
- Schedule a safety audit with a consultant or equipment provider
- Address all risks identified in your audit
Access equipment can protect your workers and help you avoid OSHA fines. However, employees must use it properly, and the equipment must match your site layout and work procedures. OSHA also requires documentation of accidents, and thorough paperwork shows you are competent.
The right safety solution mitigates the risk of dangerous falls and other serious accidents. All the same, you should still consider consulting a professional. A safety equipment provider offers expert solutions tailored to your worksite that help ensure OSHA compliance and a safer site for your employees. Not only will you be prepared for an OSHA audit, but also workers will be more productive knowing how to get their jobs done safely.
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