The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 empowered Federal OSHA to conduct inspections and enforce safety compliance among U.S. businesses. The General Duty Clause (29CFR§1903.1) requires that every employer provide “… a place of employment … free from recognized hazards … likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

To help accomplish that goal, OSHA may inspect a workplace at any reasonable time without notice. The motivation for such an inspection could include employee complaints, incident investigations, compliance programs and follow-up.

Incident Investigation – The agency will conduct an inspection after every occupational fatality and incident that causes multiple personnel injuries. Employers are required to report fatal and multi-injury accidents in a timely manner (29CFR§1904), and many are cited for failure to do so.

Federal and State Programs – Federal OSHA has created a number of special programs (National Emphasis Programs) aimed to improve safety in various work sectors. Some of the programs that may be relevant to IH readers are: combustible dust, hazardous machinery, lead, petroleum refineries, shipbreaking and silica.

By contrast, the state of California has a carcinogen task force that inspects facilities that use chemicals listed as possible human carcinogens. Cal OSHA also has recently begun a focus program to help prevent heat stroke among agricultural, construction and factory workers.

Employer Preparation – Whether an inspection occurs in response to an incident or as part of a routine program, it is advisable for employers to make certain preparations in advance. Dr. Richard Wade, principal scientist at Exponent, colleague of Dr. Martin and former director of Cal OSHA, advises readers, “One of the first tasks an OSHA inspector will perform is to look for the posting of OSHA Compliance Guides in the place of employment. Following this, they will review the company’s health and safety plan and the contents of their accident reporting system. These are not only easy to examine, but they give the inspector a clue as to overall health and safety compliance in the company.”

Next time, we will finish our OSHA discussion.