10 tips for surviving an OSHA audit

From Billboard’s Hot 100 to the Ten Most Dangerous Hackers, people love lists. Some lists are an honor to be part of. Case in point, Texas Mutual was thrilled to be named a 2016 Wards 50 Top-Performing P&C Carrier. And then there are lists you want no part of. Case in point, OSHA’s list of top 10 violations.

This summer, OSHA increased its fee structure by 80 percent. That means if an inspector catches you violating standards, it could cost you up to $124,709 per violation.

OSHA’s new fee structure
Type of violation Previous maximum penalty New maximum penalty
Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation $12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $70,000 per violation $124,709 per violation

Now, most employers will never cross OSHA’s radar. The agency only employs one inspector for every 59,000 job sites. But what if OSHA does come knocking?

In the spirit of our affinity for lists, here are 10 tips for surviving an OSHA inspection.

Report injuries and illnesses

OSHA requires employers to record and report all fatalities, as well as certain injuries and illness. Starting in 2017, OSHA will require many employers to submit injury and illness records electronically. You can avoid costly fines by complying with recording and recordkeeping requirements.

Know what triggers an inspection

OSHA conducts programmed and unprogrammed inspections. Programmed inspections are planned. They focus on high-hazard companies and industries. Unplanned factors, including fatalities, severe injuries and employee complaints, trigger unprogrammed inspections.

Understand the inspection process

OSHA inspections follow a strict process, starting with the inspector presenting his or her credentials. From there, the inspector explains the purpose of the visit during the opening conference. The inspector will then walk the job site looking for hazards. The process wraps up with the closing conference, where you learn about any violations the inspector found.

Create an I2P2

A written injury and illness prevention program, known in OSHA-speak as an I2P2, provides a road map for sending employees home injury-free. The plan identifies the hazards employees are exposed to, explains how the company will protect employees and assigns accountability within the program.

Keep accurate records

Accurate records are a critical component of any successful safety program. They’re also a key part of OSHA inspections. During the opening conference, you will present your written I2P2, safety training records, medical surveillance records and OSHA logs. The inspector will also ask for applicable OSHA-required programs, such as hazard communication, hearing conservation, forklift safety and confined spaces. For sample programs, visit OSHA and the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) online.

Don’t fall victim to scams

OSHA requires its inspectors to present their credentials before entering any workplace. There have been reports of people posing as inspectors and issuing fake citations or coercing employers into buying products or services to avoid violations. An OSHA inspector will never ask for immediate payment for a citation. You can verify an inspector’s credentials by calling the nearest OSHA area office.

Don’t interfere with the inspection

Sometimes, an employer allows the inspector to enter but interferes with or limits an important aspect of the inspection, such as the walk-through or employee interviews. Remember that interference could result in legal action.

Apply for variances

You might qualify for a compliance exception, or variance, to an OSHA standard. For example, some employers may not be able to comply fully and on time with a new safety or health standard because of a shortage of personnel, materials or equipment.

Get compliance assistance

If you’ve tried to navigate OSHA’s standards, you know it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Fortunately, you’re not on your own. Take advantage of these free OSHO-sponsored compliance assistance programs:

  • OSHCON – OSHA partners with TDI to offer the Occupational Safety and Health Consultation (OSHCON) program. The program is a non-regulatory service that helps employers identify and correct violations without getting fined.
  • VPP – Qualifying employers can enroll in OSHA’s voluntary protection program (VPP). Participating employers are exempt from programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

Visit Work Safe, Texas

Maintaining a safe workplace is the best way to stay off OSHA’s radar, and Texas Mutual is here to help. We refresh worksafetexas.com each month with relevant, free resources. We encourage every employer to leverage the resources and make safety a value in their organization.

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