OSHA frequently arrives at an office unannounced to begin its investigation. An investigation is conducted for several reasons, including:
- A former or current employee made a complaint (a common occurrence when unions are involved);
- Other government agencies have reason to believe the employer is violating OSHA’s Rules and Regulations and informs OSHA of that belief;
- Generally scheduled inspection based on the employer’s injury and illness data;
- The employer is in an industry that OSHA has a national or local emphasis program for (these programs change each year depending on reports from the previous year);
- There was a recent accident or fatality at the workplace.
When OSHA visits, the Compliance Safety and Health Office (CSHO) should show his or her credentials and state the purpose of the visit. The CSHO will then ask to speak to the highest ranking person at the workplace physically there at that time. An opening conference will be held at that time, and the CSHO will ask to review certain items such as: the employer’s written programs; OSHA Injury and Illness Records (if required to keep them); and documentation of any previous OSHA-related training. After the opening conference, the CSHO will request to perform a physical inspection, interview employees in private, take photographs, and document any apparent hazards he or she found.
If violations of the OSH Act or OSHA’s Rules and Regulations are found, the CSHO will formally serve the employer a citation and penalties. The employer is able to challenge the citation and penalties, try to negotiate them down, or accept the citations and pay the fine. Austin Legal regularly advises clients on the merits of each option, as well as challenges and negotiates the findings with OSHA. When OSHA citations are challenged without resolution, OSHA files a lawsuit against the employer to enforce its decision. Matt Austin has successfully defended employers against law suits filed by OSHA.