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How OSHA Prioritizes the Worksites it Inspects

If you are an employer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may inspect your worksites at any time for potential safety violations. In many cases, however, inspections will fall into one of several types. The reason: OSHA enforces safety regulations at more than seven million workplaces around the nation. Because of the size of the operation, OSHA must prioritize which worksites it inspects.

The agency says it focuses on these six reasons for an inspection. They are listed in order of importance.

  1. Imminent danger. These are hazards that could cause death or serious harm. OSHA focuses first on these inspections and often will ask employers to make changes immediately.
  2. Workplace catastrophe: If an employee dies or three or more employees are hospitalized, employers are required to notify OSHA within eight hours.
  3. Worker complaints: Employees may report hazards or violations of OSHA regulations.
  4. Referrals from other agencies, organizations and the media. OSHA considers these reports when deciding whether to inspect a worksite.
  5. Follow-up inspections: In some circumstances, OSHA returns to a previously inspected worksite to check for abatement of violations.
  6. Planned investigations: OSHA also focuses on high-hazard industries and workplaces that have high injury and illness rates.

These are not the only situations in which OSHA conducts inspections. If you are an employer who is covered by OSHA - and most employers are - the agency may conduct an inspection for any number of reasons. As soon as an OSHA officer appears at your worksite, you or a manager should contact an attorney with experience in OSHA matters. You can better protect your business by having legal advice from the start of an OSHA inspection.

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