An OSHA Inspection Can Be Costly for the Unprepared Employer

McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC
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Knock Knock!  Who’s there?  OSHA.  OSHA who?  OSHA, the federal agency responsible for workplace safety, which is going to hit your company with hefty fines if you are not prepared.

This is no joke.  OSHA is a very active and well-resourced organization with an aggressive agenda.  The statistics tell the story: OSHA’s total budget for 2015 exceeds $550 million, more than 36,000 inspections were conducted in 2014, the top 10 fines issued by OSHA in 2014 totaled more than $9.2 million, and significant fines (over $100,000) issued in 2014 averaged $2.6 million/month and totaled $30 million for the year.  With smart preparation, your company can avoid being included among these statistics.

Any company may be subject to an OSHA inspection as a result of an employee complaint, a work-related accident, or random selection for inspection designed to address or target specific workplace hazards (e.g., fall hazards, asbestos).  Regardless of how an inspection is initiated and any specific issue(s) that may be in play in connection with a particular inspection, OSHA will likely review certain records and various areas of compliance including: any required written plans/programs required for your workplace/industry (e.g., safety plan, emergency action plan,  lockout/tag-out procedures, fall protection program), written program and other required Hazcom materials (labels, Safety Data Sheets and training records), accident and injury logs (e.g., OSHA 300 if applicable), and the mandatory OSHA poster.  Taking a proactive approach and ensuring that certain essential OSHA compliance matters have been adequately addressed, before a government inspector is at your door, will best position your company to successfully navigate any future OSHA inspection and reduce potential liability.

For example, OSHA recommends that a compliant safety plan should address certain issues, at a minimum. OSHA recommends that each written plan include the following basic elements:

  • policy or goals statement,
  • identification of responsible persons,
  • hazard identification,
  • hazard controls and safe practices,
  • emergency and accident response, and
  • employee training and communication, and recordkeeping.

If you have a hazard plan, and you must if you are covered by OSHA, does it cover these elements?

Similarly, an OSHA compliant emergency action plan should (at a minimum) address:

  • the means to report fires and other workplace emergencies,
  • evacuation procedures and emergency escape routes,
  • procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before evacuation,
  • procedures to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation,
  • rescue and medical duties for certain employees with such responsibilities, and
  • names and titles of persons who can be contacted for further information or with questions about the plan.

GSF1Achieving OSHA compliance can seem like a daunting task, but ignoring workplace safety is not an option when there is so much at risk.  The unprepared company can suffer significant consequences and face substantial potential exposure in the event of an OSHA inspection. Those companies which take a proactive and coordinated approach, by first addressing the most critical needs/areas of concern and ultimately developing a comprehensive workplace safety program with full compliance as the goal, are much more likely to succeed.

Stay tuned for future blog posts that will feature additional advice regarding OSHA inspections and address other important OSHA compliance topics.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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