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Safety Management Insights

How to Prepare for Your Next OSHA Visit

Posted by Don Brown on Apr 7, 2014 1:28:00 PM

OSHA_InspectionThe mere mention of an inspection can send ripples of anxiety through your company, but it really shouldn’t.

The intent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration isn’t to slap you with fines for “gotcha” violations, but to keep you and your employees safe and act as a second set of eyes for avoiding hazards. OSHA oversees approximately 7 million workplaces and prioritizes its inspections based on imminent danger, recent catastrophes or complaints. It also aims to follow up on previous citations to ensure they’ve been adequately resolved.

If your business is vigilant about spotting hazards and cultivates a strong safety culture year-round, you won’t need to live in fear of the next OSHA visit.

You can prepare yourself to pass simply by knowing where inspectors will look. It’s no secret — OSHA publishes data about the violations it finds, not to shame businesses but to provide guidance for them. According to its website, the standards inspectors most frequently cited in 2013 were:

  • Fall protection that’s not used or used incorrectly when employees are working at heights greater than 6 feet without a guardrail or platform. Falls accounted for 36 percent of all construction deaths in 2012, according to OSHA data.
  • Improper hazard communication, including labels on chemicals, updated material safety data sheets and training to ensure all employees understand how to use them properly.
  • Scaffolding improperly constructed or unsafely used.
  • Respiratory protection not used or used improperly.
  • Wiring methods not properly grounded.
  • Powered industrial trucks that don’t comply with standards.
  • Ladders not properly secured or used. All fixed ladders longer than 24 feet must include protections, such as ladder safety devices or retracting lifelines.
  • Lockout/tagout procedures not properly used to control hazardous energy sources, including electrical, mechanical or thermal energy. Use of these procedures must be documented.
  • General electrical requirements not properly followed.
  • Hazardous machines not properly guarded. This includes proper use of and training for trash compactors, a pervasive standards violation that resulted in a corporate-wide settlement for Wal-Mart last year.

Other compliance problems are matters of basic record-keeping required by law. A study from The Carlyle Consulting Group pointed to several of the most common issues in this area, including failure to keep injury or illness records, lack of safety audits and failure to display the OSHA safety poster in the workplace.

And remember, reviewing these common violations and OSHA’s Field Operations Manual for inspectors will help you ensure your business is following the law. If you review the information and routinely perform visual checks, you’ll feel much more confident about your compliance when it’s time for the next visit.

Preparing for your next audit is much easier when your safety records are updated and easily searchable. Many businesses are replacing stacks of paperwork with integrated safety software systems that store all their procedures, training and recordable incidents in one place. BasicSafe is one solution that’s easy to use and affordable for small businesses. For more ways to make your job easier, download our free guide below.

9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier