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Reasons You May Be Inspected By OSHA

Reasons You May Be Inspected By OSHA

An OSHA safety inspection: it doesn’t surprise us if that thought brings up a negative connotation for you. After all, someone searching around your business for things that you’re doing wrong so that they can potentially cite you isn’t enjoyable for anyone. Furthermore, OSHA inspections are almost always unexpected, leaving you with no preparation time. We want to take some of the guesswork out of that for you. In this blog, we will review reasons that make it probable that you might be inspected based off of the hierarchy for probable cause. See the hierarchy below:

1. Imminent danger is present.

If OSHA is made aware that a person’s life is in jeopardy at your place of work, this allows the highest probable cause. Accident reporting, whistleblowing or a tip from hospitals/other industry professionals are some of the ways that imminent danger can be brought to OSHA’s attention. Examples of imminent danger include electrical or fall hazards.

2. There has been a fatality.

A workplace fatality falls imminent danger only because it has already happened while with imminent danger, something can be done to prevent the danger from happening in the future. Regardless, a workplace fatality is still a high priority for an investigation.

3. There has been a catastrophe.

Catastrophes can include machine malfunctions, workplace accidents, injuries,, etc.

4. There has been an employee complaint.

As mentioned earlier, an employee may create a whistleblower situation through reporting imminent danger, but any sort employee complaint, although not as high priority as an imminent danger complaint, will be given consideration when it comes to inspections. Examples of complaints could include complaints based on safety procedures set in place, unfair treatment based on safety rules or reports of safety procedures not being followed correctly.

5. Your business falls under the planned inspection criteria.

The one exception to inspections being unexpected: planned inspections. OSHA decides how they will choose who to plan to expect based off this category annually, so it can always vary. Some factors planned inspections can and have been based on include:

  • Worker’s compensation rates
  • Experience Modification ratings
  • Specific industries and their injury/illness rates

6. Your business falls under a local or national OSHA emphasis.

Regions, states, or areas will typically experience trends where a particular work industry sees a lot of injuries/illnesses. If your business fall within this particular area and industry, this will add priority to a safety inspection.

NOTE: An Enforcement Weighting System has recently been enforced for OSHA inspectors. Previously, inspectors had to meet a quota for a certain number of inspections without taking the importance of a need for an inspection into account. To fix this, certain characteristics of inspections, such as the type of inspection, are weighted with points in order to reward an inspector for more impactful inspections. The values assigned to different categories tend to fall in line with the hierarchy presented above with imminent danger taking first priority, but it provides more specific examples of what could be considered imminent danger. See the specifics here.

For a more specific breakdown of individual reasons that you may receive a safety inspection, see Vivid Learning Systems’ Guide: 161 Reasons for an OSHA Inspection. For more on OSHA Safety Inspections, such as a walkthrough of the separate phases of inspection as well as steps to take to prepare in the event that you receive an inspection, see our guide: Preparing for an OSHA Safety Inspection.


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