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Don’t get snagged in OSHA’s beefed-up inspection machine

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Preventing Workplace Violence

Issue: OSHA "dramatically" increased the number of its most serious kind of violations that it handed out in 2004.

Risk: Negative inspection results can trigger big fines and sales-killing publicity.

Action: Use the advice and resources below to refresh supervisors (and yourself) about your job-safety responsibilities.

Now's a good time for a companywide refresher on safety rules. One reason: Federal workplace safety inspectors cranked up their enforcement last year, particularly targeting employers with repeat or willful violations.

The numbers: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected 39,167 workplaces last year, issuing 86,708 violations of OSHA standards, a 4 percent increase over 2003. Violations deemed "serious" rose 3 percent and "willful" violations (the most serious kind) jumped by 14 percent, which OSHA called a "dramatic increase."

Advice: Tighten up your safety efforts. Even if you don't fear an OSHA inspection, safer workplaces equal higher productivity and lower health care costs.

OSHA requires you to post the following materials in a prominent place:

Job safety posters that inform employees of their rights. (For poster details, go to www.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm.)

Copies of OSHA violation citations. These must remain posted at or near the location of the alleged violation for three days or until you correct the violation, whichever is longer.

Log of occupational injuries and illnesses. For each location, you must keep a log for the current year, plus the five preceding years. Other records, such as medical records about occupational injuries, must be kept even longer. (See details at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping.)

You must also review conditions regularly to ensure compliance with OSHA standards. That means:

  • Ensure that employees have safe tools and equipment, then properly maintain them.
  • Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
  • Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them to workers, so they can follow safety and health rules.
  • Provide medical exams and training when required.
  • Don't discriminate or retaliate against employees who exercise their rights under OSHA, such as whistle-blowers.

Online resources: Safety compliance


  • For general compliance help, visit the main OSHA compliance page: www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance.
  • For specific industry rules and compliance: www.osha. gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/industry.html.
  • For more tips on safety: www.cdc.gov/niosh.


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