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It’s the stuff of nightmares. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector arrives on a jobsite and before you know it, the workers are leaving and the job is dead in its tracks. Everyone has heard of stories like this. It’s happened time and again. Right? Actually, no.
In reality, OSHA doesn’t shut down jobsites. Only a court order can, and that’s an extreme situation, says Simplified Safety. If there’s an immediate risk on-site, the inspector can ask that you halt operation until the situation is resolved. But even then, it’s your choice whether or not to comply. The important thing is to comply, whether or not you want to. It’s not just safe business, it can save you a heap of trouble later on.
OSHA won’t come snooping around with the off chance that they find a violation, here is how their priorities lie:
If there’s a major problem on a jobsite, you can expect an inspector to arrive in short order to investigate.
If there is a major work-related incident — fatality or serious injury — OSHA will come to investigate.
If an employee or another concerned party tips off OSHA about a potential hazard, expect a visit. Improper or nonexistent work gloves, for example, could be a viable safety complaint.
Routine, programmed inspections of high-hazard industries may happen periodically, whether or not there’s an incident or a risky situation afoot.
Inspectors aren’t there to hurt the company, they’re there to keep workers safe.
You could refuse entry to an inspector if he shows up without a warrant. But think about that for a moment: All the inspector needs to do is ask and a warrant will be issued. Then he’ll come back and you won’t have the option to refuse entry, at least not without incurring a hefty fine. Then an OSHA shut down could happen and quick.
Compliance goes a very long way with OSHA inspectors. Even in the face of an enormous safety hazard working with OSHA could mean the reduction or even avoidance of a fine, depending on the hazard and the full situation surrounding it. For example, in some circumstances, the company wouldn’t be liable for a hazard if there was no reasonable way to predict or control the actions of the person directly responsible. Either way, refusal never turns out well.
The best defense against a citation is an offensive approach to workplace safety. Stop hazards before they start. Depending on the industry, you might never be subject to an OSHA inspection. Although you can’t really control workplace incidents or employee reports, you can establish and enforce a safety program, including the use of the required PPE. The existence of standards and their regular enforcement shows diligence on your part.
OSHA is committed to keeping workers safe so your relationship with the agency, as a safety professional, shouldn’t be an unfriendly one. Think of them as a safety partner. They even offer zero cost workplace evaluations that help you identify hazards that need correction. No citations are issued during that visit, and it gives you a wealth of information for your safety program.
A problem with work gloves doesn’t result in an OSHA shut down of your whole operation. They can’t even shut it down for a serious and obvious workplace hazard without a court order. But citation avoidance in the face of hazards only lasts for a while. In some cases, an order might be issued in a day. The best approach for you, the company, and your workers is to make safety a priority every day, whether or not an inspection is looming.
Want more information? Download one of our most requested FREE resources: the Definitive Guide to Hand Protection.
You might also be interested in this related article,
Top 10 OSHA Citations and How to Prevent Them
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Hand Injury Rates are Reduced by 60% when using the right gloves.