General Safety: OSHA's Here! Now What?
DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO DURING AN OSHA INSPECTION?
OSHA has neither the staff nor the resources to inspect the approximately six million workplaces in this country so they established a system of priorities based on the "worst first" approach. OSHA's Inspection priorities from highest to lowest are as follows:
- Imminent Danger - Reasonable certainty that a danger exists that is expected to cause death or serious physical harm.
- Catastrophes & Fatal Accidents - death or hospitalization of 3 or more employees. (Must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours).
- Employee Complaints - When the employee feels they are in imminent danger or threatened with physical harm.
- Programmed High-Hazard - Those establishment with lost workday rates at or above the most recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics national rate.
- Follow-Up Inspections - To ensure cited items have been abated.
The OSHA inspection begins when the compliance officer arrives at the establishment. If an OSHA inspector arrives unexpectedly at your job site you should immediately inform your supervisor who will in turn contact Environmental Health and Safety. You should insist upon seeing the officers U.S. Department of Labor credentials that will have a photograph and serial number that can be verified by calling the Syracuse OSHA office. Anyone that attempts to collect a penalty or promote the sale of an item or service is not an OSHA compliance officer. Do not begin the inspection until EHS has arrived. **Cornell has the right to require OSHA to obtain a warrant before permitting entry.
The compliance officer will explain why the job, site, or organization was selected for inspection. The officer will further explain the scope of the inspection, the purpose and standards, and if applicable provide a copy of the employee complaint (minus their name). The employer will be asked to select an employer representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection. An authorized representative of the employees, if any, also has the right to go along. The compliance officer will consult with a reasonable number of employees, privately if desired. The Act prohibits discrimination in any form by employers against workers because of anything they say or show the compliance officer during the inspection.
The destination and duration of the inspection are determined by the compliance officer. Your supervisor will be brief and to the point with his/her answers, offering no additional information, and take the inspector to his destination along the most direct route (avoiding detours that might expand the inspection). The inspector may point out unsafe or unhealthy work conditions during the walk through and may offer technical advice on how to eliminate hazards. This is not the time to argue! Discrepancies that are corrected on the spot will be recorded to be used in "good faith" determinations when assessing penalties.
During the closing conference, the inspector will discuss all unsafe or unhealthy conditions involved and violations which may be cited. We will have the opportunity to produce all records that show compliance efforts or that will assist OSHA in determining the time needed for abatement of the hazards. We have the right to appeal OSHA citations. The inspector will not indicate any proposed penalties as they are determined by the Area Director. The employer must then post a copy of each citation at or near the place a violation occurred. It should remain there for three days or until the violation is abated, whichever is longer.
Citations: In most cases the citations are prepared at the OSHA Area Office and are mailed to the employer. Citations will include: 1) a description of the violation; 2) the proposed penalty, if any; and 3) the date by which the hazard must be corrected. Cornell has 15 working days after receipt to file an intention to contest OSHA citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Settlement Agreements: If an employer believes OSHA's citations are unreasonable, or wishes for any reason to discuss the OSHA enforcement action, he or she may request an informal conference with the Area Director to discuss any citations issued. The agency and the employer may work out a settlement agreement to resolve the dispute and to eliminate the hazard.
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