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Occupational Safety and Health Administration | LegalMatch Law Library

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What is OSHA?

OSHA Is the abbreviation for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency from the Department of Labor. It is responsible for ensuring safety at work for all employees and a healthy work environment.

OSHA’s mission is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. OSHA requires employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

What Businesses Does OSHA Inspect?

OSHA is responsible for making sure its standards are being met by businesses. Notwithstanding, it is impossible for them to inspect every business. The government schedules OSHA inspections as follows:

  • Programmed Inspections: Regularly scheduled inspections that are in “high hazard” industries
  • Investigation of Imminent Dangers: Any condition or practices that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
  • Investigation of Complaints: OSHA has a responsibility to investigate complaints made by employees or cases referred to them.
  • Faulty and Catastrophe Investigations: Any work-related incident that results in the death of an employee or the in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees must be investigated.

How are OSHA Inspections Conducted?

Inspections are conducted by compliance officers. They typically are done without advance notice by state compliance inspectors.

Although a prior announcement isn’t necessary, workplace inspections generally must be conducted at a reasonable time, typically during the employer’s normal work hours, and in a reasonable manner.

Does OSHA Need a Warrant to Inspect My Business?

Yes. When an OSHA compliance officer arrives at your workplace to conduct an inspection, you have the right to request their warrant. If they cannot provide you with their warrant, you have the right to deny entry.

OSHA may get a warrant from a judge. If you allow them entry without asking for a warrant, or let them conduct their search despite not having a warrant after you’ve asked for one, you voluntarily consent to the search.

Does OSHA Have a Small Business Exemption?

Businesses who are considered low-risk industries may be eligible for the small business exemption. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees are exempted from programmed inspections so long as they have an occupational injury lost workday rate lower than the national average. The national average is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Happens if OSHA Discovers a Violation?

If a workplace violation is found, OSHA will issue you a citation. The citation charges you with a particular violation. It will also set a time for abatement or correction of the discovered violation. The citation will also include any proposed penalties.

It’s important to remember that citations are only issued to employers, even if the violation was created or caused by an employee.

Can I Contest OSHA’s Findings if Their Inspections Turns Up Something?

Yes, you can contest the citation before the Review Commission. You also have the option of negotiating with OSHA to have the citation or penalties amended or withdrawn, or correcting the violations and paying any penalties.

What are Some Defenses to OSHA Violations?

You can defend against a citation by showing any of the following:

  • You lacked knowledge of the violation;
  • Compliance with the standard was impossible or not feasible;
  • The violation was caused by an unanticipated employee violation of your work rule;
  • No employees were exposed to a hazard; and
  • Compliance with the standard would have greater a hazard to employees.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with My OSHA Problem?

OSHA sanctions can be very severe and difficult to fight. If you are facing an investigation, a local employment attorney can help you meet OSHA requirements.

If you were recently inspected, consult with an employment lawyer as the inspection is the beginning of a multi-step process and you may have some defenses.

Photo of page author Erin Chan Adams

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-04-2018 02:05 PM PDT

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