What Happens if You Fail an OSHA Inspection?
Whether you know about it in advance or it’s a total surprise, an OSHA inspection is nerve-wracking. You do your best to maintain clean, safe, accommodating facilities, but it can be hard to stay on top of everything, all the time. What will OSHA find? More importantly, what happens if they do find something? The prospect is enough to make your palms sweat … which is probably an OSHA violation. Take a deep breath. Relax. You’ve got this!
The first thing to do is make yourself available. The inspection is happening whether you like it or not. You can only hope your efforts are enough to rate you in compliance. Stay attentive, shadow the inspector, and make sure your logs and information are available where possible. All you can really do is wait for the report.
There are violations … now what?
If your OSHA inspection has concluded with citations, know you’re not alone. The average OSHA inspection includes three-to-four citations and many more notes. These citations won’t just go away, so get intent on fixing them. Here are the immediate next steps:
- Fix the problem to the best of your abilities immediately. OSHA cites safety violations, so do what you can to remove the immediate danger. Your first and top priority is making sure an OSHA violation doesn’t become a personal injury claim.
- Post the citation. Employers are required to post OSHA citations publicly, so employees are aware of them. Don’t worry — the citation won’t be there for long if you do things the right way!
- Feel like you’ve been unfairly dinged? You’ve got 15 days to contest a citation. It’s not recommended unless there’s been a clear miscommunication, though. Legal counsel can help you make the decision whether to contest the citation or not.
These are your most immediate options. But they’re far from the end of the process.
Fines, fixes, and forward thinking
Most citations come with a fix-it deadline before the fine is collected, but serious citations may involve immediate fines as high as $7,000 per citation. For minor violations, you may only get a notice with no fine attached. Whatever the case, consider this your call-to-action to fix things.
- Explore thorough resolutions for the problem. If you implemented a temporary fix, make sure it’s converted to a full OSHA-compliant remediation. Document everything and make sure you’re addressing exact callouts from the report.
- Schedule a follow-up inspection for your specific citations. An OSHA inspector will come out to assess these areas exclusively. If they pass inspection, your citation is lifted, and your noteworthy compliance reinstated.
- Document everything and store the files securely so you can reproduce these documents if you’re ever flagged for the same violation after fixing it.
What happens if you don’t address the areas of concern in a timely fashion, or at all? Expect mounting fines — up to $70,000 for repeat violations. Worse still, if injuries result from overlooked OSHA citations, you could be held criminally liable.
OSHA inspections ensure worker safety. It’s important to make every effort to maintain a safe work environment for your employees, and when an OSHA inspection arises, to work with an inspector to address specific citations as quickly as possible. You’re not alone in your efforts. Manufacturers across the U.S. are doing the very same thing to make manufacturing safer and better.