A workplace that fails to comply with standards established by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration could face hefty fines along with a heightened risk of occupational injuries and illnesses. The OSHA regulations are lengthy, and business owners may be unaware of all the rules pertaining to their workplace, but OSHA offers free safety audits for small and medium businesses that want to review their own compliance.
The audit process
The OSHA website contains a directory of state agencies that provide on-site inspections. Once a business has contacted the appropriate agency, a consultant will contact the business to schedule the safety audit.
Unlike an actual OSHA safety inspection, the free safety audit cannot result in fines or citations, and the consultant cannot report possible violations to OSHA.
The consultant’s purpose is to help businesses identify safety hazards and provide recommendations about how to improve safety. Business owners or managers accompany the consultant on the walk-through inspection, and later receive a detailed written report of the inspection’s findings.
During an inspection, a consultant may point out conditions that, while not in violation of OSHA laws, could create a danger in the workplace. If an inspector identifies an “imminent danger” in a workplace, the business must agree to a plan for remediating that hazard within a specific timeframe, known as an abatement period. The consultant must report to OSHA if businesses fail to correct an imminent hazard within the abatement period.
Creating safer workplaces
A small Illinois metal recycling company requested a free OSHA inspection in 2011, and during the site visit, the consultant noted many safety hazards including insufficient personal protective equipment, overexposure to fumes and noise and incorrect labeling of hazardous chemicals.
By working with the consultant to develop a hazard-remediation plan, the company reduced to zero the number of on-the-job injuries, and thereby saw a decrease in its premiums for workers’ compensation insurance. In 2014, the company was accepted into OSHA’s Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program, which recognizes businesses that have implemented the highest standards of injury and illness prevention following their free safety audits.
In Indiana, the Indiana Department of Labor’s INSafe division provides free safety audits, along with group training, seminars and safety education materials.