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What triggers OSHA inspections in 2019?

March 20, 2019 By  

Just how likely is OSHA to follow up if one of your disgruntled employees lodges a safety complaint?

Consider this: In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, OSHA conducted more than 21,000 inspections due to complaints in each 12-month period.

You may have read a recent report from the National Employment Law Project that notes a decline in certain types of OSHA inspections.

But, the difference in inspections due to complaints from 2016 to 2017 is minimal:

  • In FY 2016, OSHA conducted 21,738 inspections due to complaints, and
  • in FY 2017, there were 21,244 complaint inspections, a decrease
    of only 2%.

When it comes to inspections, OSHA’s priorities are clear: Responding to complaints is at the top of the list.

Number of inspections up

The total number of federal OSHA inspections conducted rose for the first time in five years from 31,948 in 2016  to 32,408 in 2017. That’s a 1.4% increase.

Another type of inspection that increased by 7.6% from 2016 to 2017: (Rapid Response Investigations.)

RRIs are part of OSHA’s 2015 initiative that requires companies to report various workplace incidents within a given time period:

  • fatalities within 8 hours, and
  • inpatient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours.

Instead of sending an inspector, RRIs ask employers to conduct their own incident investigations and report back to OSHA about how they plan to abate the hazard that caused the injury. If the company doesn’t report or if OSHA isn’t satisfied with the response, the agency has the option to send an inspector.

OSHA says RRIs have led to contact with industries that aren’t often on its radar, such as companies that sell parts or supplies to manufacturers.

OSHA’s not a paper tiger

What’s this mean to you? It’s true federal OSHA’s budget has been cut or, at best, stable for several years. The agency has fewer inspectors than it had previously.

But OSHA is finding creative ways to keep its eyes on businesses under these conditions: relying on complaints, RRI program, etc.

With a potential maximum fine of $132,598 for one willful violation, companies can’t afford to assume OSHA has become a paper tiger.

About Fred Hosier

Fred Hosier is a Group Publisher for Progressive Business Publications’ Compliance Group of publications. He is the managing editor of Safety Compliance Alert and Environmental Compliance Alert. He is editor-in-chief of Safety and Compliant Alert.  Previously, Fred worked for 11 years at WILM Newsradio in Wilmington, DE, where he was News Director.


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