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July 16, 2019

Preparing for an OSHA inspection

Unless there’s been an employee complaint that you know of, there’s no way to know when OSHA will show up, unannounced, to inspect your facility.

That’s why it’s critical to be prepared—at all times—for an OSHA inspection.

The penalties for OSHA violations are generally fines, but can also be training or community outreach—and, of course, making the corrections. Fines can be substantial, and citations are public information listed on the website.

What triggers an inspection?
While any business with an employee is required to follow OSHA regulations, OSHA typically inspects organizations with 10 or more employees.

There are five reasons OSHA inspects facilities:

  1. Imminent danger. OSHA is most concerned with anything that might be a hazard to the life or health of an employee.
  2. Investigative inspection. This could be prompted by an OSHA-recordable incident, such as an employee hospitalization or injury.
  3. Employee complaint. Employees have the right to complain about safety hazards in the workplace.
  4. Programmed inspections. These are randomly selected for regular OSHA inspections and for special emphasis programs, such as grain handling.
  5. Follow-ups to previous inspections. OSHA has several categories of violations, including less than serious, serious and willful, and will follow up to make sure problems have been fixed.

What happens at an inspection?
When OSHA compliance officers arrive, they present their credentials and start with an opening conference with the principals.

The inspectors look at the company’s OSHA 300 logs for the last five years, walk through the workplace, examine equipment and interview employees. 

It’s important to be open and willing to work with compliance officers. Many companies don’t realize that some violations can be fixed immediately, while officers are on site. While the law requires that these hazards must still be cited, prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer.

At the exit conference, compliance officers share their findings with principals. A written report is delivered within 180 days.

Getting the help you need
Maintaining a safe workplace is the most effective way to prepare for an inspection. At Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA), our business insurance and safety compliance teams work with agribusiness companies to put processes and procedures in place ahead of time.

Our representatives frequently join our clients during the OSHA visit and help with corrections and penalties. We remind our clients of their rights during the visit, and later we help contest violations and negotiate penalties (we recently helped reduce a penalty from $120,000 to $42,000).

Large agribusinesses may have complex safety requirements. In addition to meeting OSHA requirements, large agribusiness clients may also have to meet regulations established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and, if food is involved, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Most organizations want to provide a safe working environment for employees while staying compliant with OSHA requirements. At MMA, we are ready to assist agribusinesses in all phases of implementing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.