How To Handle An OSHA Investigation
You probably know what OSHA is—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You probably also know that they are charged with investigating workplace accidents, workplace safety, and generally making sure that businesses are maintaining a safe work environment, in compliance with federal laws.
But you run a safe business, and follow all the laws, right? Except when an accident happens, and OSHA shows up at the door—or when nothing happens at all, but OSHA still shows up for an unannounced inspection—you may be left wondering what to do, and how to handle the investigation.
When the Investigator Shows Up…
You should verify the OSHA investigator’s authenticity—there are scammers out there, and stories of fake investigators levying fake fines.
Assuming the investigator is legitimately from OSHA, the investigator should tell you why he or she is there, and what he or she is investigating. If possible, limit the investigator to the areas or aspects of your business that relate to why the investigator is there.
That’s because you can be cited for a violation that the investigator finds, even if that violation is unrelated to the original reason why the investigation is being conducted.
If there are small violations the inspector notes that can be remedied on the spot, you can do so. This will often avoid a penalty, or lessen the severity of a penalty, if the investigator feels you are acting in good faith.
The investigator is allowed to interview your employees, without you there. But other than that, you should do your best to stay with the investigator, and not allow him or her to roam free about your premises without you there.
Document the Investigation
Anything the investigator notes or mentions, you should document through pictures or videos. Don’t assume you’ll get a copy of whatever pictures the investigator is taking. This will also help you show your attorney the state of any supposed violations, should OSHA decide to take further action.
Were You Cited or Fines?
If there is a violation, OSHA will likely send you a letter or inform you, and give you a deadline to comply. With more serious violations—such as ones that are willful, or if you have already been cited for the violation before, and not corrected it—there could be fines involved.
In some cases, if you address the concerns quickly, the local OSHA office may be willing to reduce any fines that were assessed against you. Fines are often reduced for employers that have a safe record, showing there are established safety procedures, showing that you fixed what you could, as quickly as you could, or by showing inability to pay all or some of the assessed fine.
Call the West Palm Beach employment law attorneys at Pike & Lustig today to help stay in compliance with government regulations, and to help you work with government rules and regulations.