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osha compliance officer myths

The Occupational Safety and Health Act passed in 1970 sets certain standards for employers to keep their work environments safe for employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is in charge of enforcing the standards of OSHA. While OSHA has done a good job reducing the number of work-related injury claims, some people have wrong notions about the mandate of OSHA and may perceive OSHA compliance officers in a negative way.

Myth 1: OSHA Does Not Care About Employers With Less Than 10 Employees

As long as your business has one or more employees, you are governed by OSHA regulations. If your business has less than 10 employees, you are not required to file illness or injury reports; however, you still must comply with OSHA regulations. The only group of people that OSHA does not cover is:

  • Self employed or independent contractors
  • Members of the immediate family of farm employers that don’t employ outside workers
  • State and local government employees. Some states are governed by distinct occupational safety plans that apply to these workers.

Myth 2: OSHA Wants to Cite Companies To Make Money

One of the most misguided notions is that OSHA is self-funded. This misconception fuels the idea that OSHA funds its operations using money from the fines and penalties paid by defaulting companies.

The truth is, if a business operating in a federal OSHA regulated state pays a fine or penalty, the funds go to the U.S. treasury. If a business operating in a state-plan state, the money will go to the state’s treasury. Federal OSHA states are supported by the federal government and are included in the federal budget. The OSHA state plans receive most of their budget money from the federal government and the rest from other sources of the state’s revenue.

Myth 3: OSHA Does Not Need a Warrant To Inspect Your Property

The truth is OSHA may inspect your property without a warrant if you allow it. However, you can refuse to allow OSHA inspectors to inspect your premises without a warrant. It is very easy for OSHA to get a warrant because they do not need to show that a violation has taken place. For OSHA to get a warrant it only needs to provide a reasonable basis for believing that there is a likelihood of finding a violation. OSHA can also obtain a warrant if they are conducting a routine inspection. Asking OSHA to provide a warrant will not only give you time to prepare for an inspection, it also limits the scope of the inspection to what is included in the warrant.

Myth 4: If You Invite OSHA to Visit Your Workplace, The Agency Will Inspect It Without Citing You For Any Violations

OSHA is required to enforce its regulations and offer consultative assistance and training to businesses to ensure they provide a safe workplace. When you invite OSHA to come for an inspection, they will send their consultative agencies. You should agree to rectify any violations that are found during the inspection. If you agree to fix the violations, OSHA will not be notified. If you fail to correct the violation, the consulting agency will refer you to OSHA for compliance. Therefore, the fact that you have invited OSHA to your workplace does not mean you are beyond reproach.

Myth 5: OSHA Can Shut Down A Work Site or Plant Site

If OSHA finds that a hazard poses imminent danger, the compliance officer may request the employer to remove employees from a hazardous environment during a closing conference. If the employer does not comply, the inspector can request an order from the court to stop the activities at the work or plant site, but it is up to court order to cease business activity.

Summing It Up

OSHA regulations are meant to ensure workers operate in a safe work environment. So the next time an OSHA Compliance Officer visits your place of business, respect them and be friendly. While they will take measures to ensure that healthy and safe work standards are observed, all their efforts are based on the best interests of the workers.