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Employee Triggered OSHA Inspections

Here is a very critical stat that every business owner in a high hazard industry, such as manufacturing, construction, or industrial services, needs to know:

Between 2009 and 2013, an average of 20% of all inspections were triggered by an employee complaint. The percentage of employee triggered inspections rose to 24% last year and that’s because OSHA takes these complaints very seriously and is responding by doing more and more follow up inspections.

Keep in mind that this could be a current employee, or one that you fired or laid off yesterday or up to 6 months ago. ANY ONE OF THEM COULD TURN YOU IN at any moment and OSHA is mandated to respond to every complaint.

Not only can employees trigger an OSHA inspection, but their family members or friends can too.

Sometimes these are valid complaints, but often times they are committed by disgruntled employees (past or present) who have an ax to grind with the company or management.

It’s important to understand that OSHA is required to fully investigate each complaint before responding.  If they believe it’s a valid compliant, they will either fax a letter summarizing the complaint and ask for corrective actions with a specific deadline, or they may also show up at your front door for a surprise inspection.

Their course of action depends on the severity of the complaint and hazard. In other words, if OSHA believes that the hazard could result in a recordable injury or fatality, and thus presents a clear and present danger to human life, they are mandated to respond.

More serious hazards typically result in live, unannounced inspections while less risky hazards can result in faxed responses.

Obviously, live inspections are much more difficult to manage and can be much more disruptive, stressful and expensive, especially if your company is not prepared.

Learn more about how to prepare for an OSHA inspection here.

In many cases, the OSHA enforcement officer will limit the inspection to the complaint hazard only, however if they see evidence of a poorly managed safety program, with health and safety hazards all over the facility, or a poor attitude or cooperation from company management, the scope of the inspection can quickly grow.

In these cases, they’ve very likely to issue multiple fines and penalties that can add up to $tens or even $hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This is because these inspections typically scrutinize all aspects of OSHA compliance, including written programs, employee training records, health exposure test results, OSHA 300 logs, as well as physical health and safety hazards.

So here’s the point is: it’s very important to implement and manage comprehensive OSHA health and safety programs so that your employees know that you take it seriously and won’t turn you in.

This is a great way to avoid costly OSHA inspections and fines, especially given this increase in employee triggered inspections.

And to make matters worse actually anyone Can Turn Your Company In to OSHA

That includes competitors, neighbors, employee family members, police or EMS, or basically anyone who sees or knows about a violation at your company.

OSHA is mandated to consider these complaints as well, and will use the same review process described earlier to determine how to proceed.

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