The thought of having a Compliance Officer with OSHA showing up at your jobsite might be cause for concern or confusion. I would like to use this opportunity over the next several months to break the inspection process into sections and make it easier to understand. For this month, we shall look at how and why you might get a visit from an OSHA compliance officer.
There is several reasons that you might have an inspector show up in your office trailer. Those can be a general schedule inspection, complaint, fatality/catastrophe, or emphasis program inspection.
A general schedule inspection is conducted by building permit. All building permits are submitted and OSHA has copies of all building permits issued. All permits go to a central gathering point in the United States and then are sent back to the individual states that issued them. The general schedule inspection is the last in the order and will only be started if there are not any of the other classifications of inspections to be performed. The general schedule inspection is a complete and thorough inspection of every trade and company on a site.
Fatality inspections are started immediately upon notification to the OSHA offices. Companies are required to report fatalities to the OSHA offices within 8 hours of the fatality or catastrophe. OSHA will then call the compliance officer that covers that region and assign them the investigation. A catastrophe is when 3 or more individuals are injured in the same accident. This type of inspection is for the contractor who was involved, but may be opened up if serious issues are noticed or witnessed during the investigation.
The emphasis program inspections are inspections concerning the following: trenching and excavation, Lead, Scaffolding, Recordkeeping and Fall Protection. An emphasis program inspection can be initiated from a photograph in the newspaper, a compliance officer driving by a site and seeing an issue with an item or the OSHA office being called and told of problems or perceived problems. The emphasis inspection will deal only with the specific emphasis item that they are on site to inspect, unless they see serious hazards elsewhere on site, only then can they expand their inspection and have an opening conference with everyone and do a complete inspection.
Complaint inspections are initiated through complaints that have been filed with the Department of Labor, IOSHA. There are two types of complaints: formal and informal. Formal complaints are made when the person filing the complaint signs a sworn statement stating their complaints. An informal complaint is when a person swears out the complaint and then does not sign the complaint form. Both types of complaint automatically trigger an inspection. The compliance offices are never told who filed the complaint. They will be told that it is either a formal complaint or an informal complaint, and that is what is told to the contractor. Complaints can be made in person or by phone.
Next quarter we will look at the opening conference and what a contractor should look for and ask.