OSHA Workplace Investigations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, was created in 1970 as a way to investigate and maintain the safety of work environments throughout the country.1 As defined by the law, the duty of OSHA is to enter, inspect, and investigate places of employment.2 As the act states, the reason for OSHA investigations is to ensure that employers are complying with all workplace safety regulations and to allow for each employee to have a safe and healthful workplace.3 OSHA has a yearly budget of over $563 million and conducts over 40,000 inspections annually.4 OSHA’s work has led to a significant decrease in serious workplace injuries, totaling a 67% decrease since the act was passed even though employment numbers in the United States doubled during that same time period.5
Inspections by OSHA are conducted in priority order, with certain inspections occurring before others.6 In addition, all OSHA inspections will be conducted without advance notice unless it falls into one of the following categories: immanent danger situations, accident investigations in which the employer notified OSHA of a catastrophe or injury, investigations that require special preparation, cases where notice is required in order to ensure that someone will be present at the workplace, cases where an inspection has been delayed, or situation in which OSHA decides the inspection would be more effective if the employer was given notice.7
In addition, OSHA uses a priority system to determine which inspections it should perform first.8 First priority inspections include imminent danger situations, meaning any workplace where there is a condition that could be expected to cause death or serious injury.9 Second priority investigations are those that involve fatalities.10 Any workplace accident that causes the death or serious injury of three or more employees falls into this category.11 Third priority goes to cases where an employee has filed a safety complaint.12 Finally, workplaces are investigated as a part of a routine investigation schedule.13 The industries OSHA targets in these routine inspections are typically any industry that has a high rate of injury or those businesses that have failed inspections in the past.14
When an OSHA inspector arrives at the workplace, he will first show his credentials, and if he fails to do so, the employee should ask to see them.15 The OSHA inspector generally describes the type of investigation he will perform and what he will be looking for.16 As the inspector looks through the business, he could potentially find a number of violations, each of which have different ramifications.17
A non-serious violation can still cause a financial penalty of up to $1,000, but the inspector has the ability to assess no penalty at all, depending on the company’s record and other violations.18 A serious violation can cost a company $1,500 to $7,000. A willful violation, or one that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits can carry a penalty of $5,000 up to $70,000 for each violation.19 In addition, if the violation is so severe, the employer could face criminal proceedings and if the violation resulted in the death of an employee the employer could face $250,000 in fines.20 Finally, repeated violations, meaning failing to correct a previous violation, could bring a penalty of up to $7,000.21OSHA Investigation Lawyers at the Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP
At Altman & Altman, LLP, our team of OSHA Investigation lawyers will fully explain and protect your rights. Our MA OSHA lawyers are available to speak with you about your case 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please contact us today to speak with a member of our OSHA Investigation legal team today.
1 29 USCS § 657.
2 29 USCS § 657.
3 29 USCS § 657.
4 Commonly Used Statistics, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, http://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html.
5 Commonly Used Statistics, supra note 4.
6 OSHA Inspection Manual (2002).
7 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
8 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
9 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
10 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
11 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
12 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
13 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
14 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
15 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
16 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
17 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
18 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
19 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
20 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.
21 Inspection Manual, supra note 6.