St. Louis Attorney Answers OSHA FAQs

OSHA Books

What Laws Govern Missouri OSHA Violations?

There are 28 states that have worked with the U.S. Department of Labor (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) to prepare an OSHA-approved state plan. Missouri, however, was not one of those 28 states.  Because Missouri has not provided a plan that has been approved, OSHA federal laws and regulations are directly applicable to Missouri construction projects.

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Who is Subject to OSHA Regulations?

Contrary to typical belief, are not limited to work performed by public entities or work performed on a public project. OSHA regulations extend to private sector employers, contractors, construction companies and other employers performing work that requires safety for its workers. The imposition of OSHA regulations on private sector employers either comes through an OSHA program set up by the federal government or a plan that has been prepared by the state and approved by U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Safety & Health Administration.  A number of states have approved plans (about 28), but Missouri is not one of the states that has an approved OSHA plan. Therefore, Missouri utilizes the United States OSHA plan and is governed by the federal regulations set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations.

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What are a few Important Details Regarding OSHA Inspections?

  • An inspection for OSHA violations could occur at anytime. OSHA will not call and give you forewarning.  The investigations are sometimes conducted on the spur of the moment, so do not be expecting advanced notice before an OSHA inspector arrives on one of your projects.
  • There are different types of investigations conducted by the OSHA inspectors. At times the inspector will be physically present and will conduct an on-site inspection.  At other times, if the circumstances lend to it, the OSHA inspector will conduct an investigation via phone or facsimile.
  • The OSHA inspectors who conduct the investigations on behalf of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are well-versed in the regulations. These officers are trained in the regulations, are experienced in working on jobsites, and know the ins and outs of compliance. It will be difficult to hide any violations, so the best course of action is to know the OSHA regulations and comply with the same.

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What Types of Things are OSHA Inspectors Looking For?

Whenever an OSHA inspector visits a job site, the inspector has a checklist that he scours to ensure that the employer is in compliance with the regulations. There is an endless list of OSHA regulations, so where does the employer begin to avoid these claims? The following is a short list of the highest priority items on the OSHA inspector’s violation list:

■    Imminent danger

When an OSHA inspector walks onto the job, they’re looking for a situation where a worker is in imminent danger of bodily harm or injury.

■    Catastrophes / fatalities

It should be no surprise that a catastrophe or a fatality on a construction project may prompt an investigation by OSHA.  When the inspector arrives at your workplace, the focus will be on the instrumentality, or lack thereof, that caused the catastrophe or fatality.  However, the inspector will already be out on the job and will thoroughly inspect all work being performed, as well as the job site in general, to ensure OSHA compliance.

■    Worker complaints and referrals

When a worker makes a complaint to OSHA about his or her safety on a job site, OSHA takes on a duty to inspect the employer’s operations to assure that all regulations are being followed.

■    Targeted inspections – high injury/illness rates, severe violators

If a jobsite has an inordinate amount of injuries or occurrences that subject the workers to injury, OSHA is going to be all over the jobsite scrutinizing any potential cause.  When OSHA has been informed that something is wrong on the project, they will come to investigate and specifically target whatever they believe the root of the problem is.  This is what’s commonly referred to as a targeted inspection. As an employer on a construction project, you need to find the root of the problem before the OSHA inspectors do. If you need legal counsel in preventing OSHA violations, contact an OSHA regulations attorney.

■    Follow-up inspections

Whenever there are violations on one of your jobs, the inspectors will usually follow up the with a subsequent inspection to ensure that the OSHA violations were remedied.  These inspections are usually aimed at the specific violations that previously occurred, so the employer should be aware of exactly what the OSHA inspector will be investigating.

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How is an OSHA Phone or Fax Investigation Conducted?

If the alleged OSHA violation is seemingly minor in the eyes of OSHA, then the administration may simply conduct an investigation via telephone, followed up by a fax detailing the investigation.

If an employer is prompted with such an investigation, time is of the essence.

OSHA requires that the employer respond within 5 working days in writing.  The response must include the problems that the employer was able to discern, and the employer must detail the corrective actions taken to rectify OSHA’s concerns.

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