The Occupational Safety and Health Administration maintains a series of standards that are intended to protect worker safety in all types of industries. OSHA standards apply to most workplaces, but they can have the biggest impact on industries that require workers perform various physical tasks or operate in environments where safety precautions cannot be neglected. The construction industry is a perfect example of such a workplace.
OSHA compliance in the construction industry deals with many different aspects of the occupation, including tool safety, personal protective gear, worker training and communication, fall and injury prevention, and more. In addition to setting standards and conducting safety checks, the administration carries out investigations and completes reporting, which tracks and evaluates safety incidents affecting the industry.
Construction firms and contractors must take measures to be in compliance with OSHA requirements and follow protocol for OSHA inspections.
What Happens During An OSHA Inspection?
An OSHA inspection will usually occur in response to an employee request or in the event of a serious workplace incident, such as a significant injury or fatality. Employees and contractors working for an employer covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act have the right to submit a request for an OSHA inspection. Additionally, unions may file an OSHA complaint or inspection request on behalf of an employee.
After the inspection request is received, an OSHA inspector will visit the facility, job site, or other location cited in the request. Very rarely will advanced notice be provided to the employer, except under unique circumstances.
If the inspection request cites an imminent danger, if a serious investigation is needed due to a major injury or fatality, if the inspection needs to be completed outside of regular hours of operation, or if management needs to travel or make arrangements to be present at the inspection site, then OSHA may give the employer advanced notice of the inspection.
Once the OSHA inspector arrives on-site, they will sometimes be accompanied by a designated employee representative. This representative is chosen by the employee submitting the inspection request or the union. Some inspections can also be carried out without an accompanying employee representative.
Technical experts may also be present to assist the inspector. In general, an OSHA inspection consists of an opening conference, a “walkaround” of the workplace, discussions with a reasonable number of employees, and finally a closing conference. This process can take a few hours or it may be carried out through a series of visits.
If any violations, hazards, or other issues are found, OSHA may give specific guidance and deadlines to correct these problems. Fines and citations may be issued as well. OSHA citations are generally issued within six months of the inspection completion date.
Preparing For OSHA Inspections And Preventing Citations
The best way to prepare for an OSHA inspection and avoid citations is to gain a thorough understanding of OSHA requirements that are relevant to a workplace and industry. Worker training, equipment that satisfies safety standards, OSHA compliance documentation, and regular safety assessments are just a few ways that companies can be ready for OSHA inspections and mitigate any violations.
Some companies may choose to work with safety check service providers that will provide outside assessments, which function as mock OSHA investigations. Running these checks makes it easier to address hazards and violations that might go unnoticed. Setting up periodic self-evaluations, prioritizing employee training and safety resources, and ensuring all hazard communications are clear and comprehensive, are all effective measures for maintaining an OSHA-compliant worksite.