Demystifying OSHA Inspections Part 1:

How does your practice get chosen by OSHA to be inspected?

The usual way for a practice gets inspected is when an employee, ex-employee or patient reports it to OSHA for violations of OSHA regulations. This is called a “for cause” inspection.

If a current employee reports a true regulation offense then a practice will be inspected. OSHA takes that type of report very seriously.   They are aware that sometimes an ex-employee may be angry and lashing out.  If, in their judgment, that is the case OSHA may send you a letter asking for details and an explanation instead of inspecting.  Receiving a letter does not mean you can dismiss the issue.  You have a limited time to answer.  If you do not answer the letter or do not answer it to OSHA’s satisfaction, they will show up to inspect.  They will not give you advance notice and you cannot stop them from inspecting.  If you refuse they will leave and return with the police and a warrant.  A “for cause” inspection is usually limited in scope to the area or areas reported.  They can expand the scope if they notice something wrong during their inspection.  It is important not to volunteer information to an inspector unless they ask a question.

Saying something like “we have an excellent training program” requires them to expand their scope to your training program.

The second kind of inspection is a “random” inspection. Every year OSHA has a schedule. The first priority is reported violations. The second priority is businesses at high risk for employee injury and death like construction, manufacturing, mining and farming.   These types of businesses are closely watched and are on permanent rotation for inspection.   The source list is a compilation of federal records and state records for states that have their own OSHA program.

The third priority is business types that have not been inspected for a while.  Recently healthcare came up on this last list. The recent economic downturn has reduced activity in the high risk business, giving OSHA more time to extend their reach.  The surprising number of violations found during these inspections has resulted in some states adding healthcare, especially dental, to their permanent list for random inspections. Unlike the “for cause” inspections, random inspections are full scope.  The inspectors will look at all areas of regulations.

Action Items if an OSHA inspector shows up at your office:

  1. Ask them, politely, to wait while you notify management. You can keep them waiting up to 20 minutes. Always be courteous and polite. This actually works to keep down the number of citations and the amount of fines.
  2. Notify management and take a quick look around for any obvious problems that can be quickly corrected such as an overfull sharps container or unsecured gas cylinders.
  3. If you are a TMC OSHA client with support, call our Client Services Center for advice and assistance through all phases of the inspection process. If you are not a current client or do not have support it only takes minutes to get you added as a client and we will assist immediately.