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Inviting OSHA to your facility should not be a dreadful experience, especially when prepared with a strong safety program. As safety professionals, we all have a heightened focus on safety because we want to return safely home from work each day and we want the same for our colleagues. So, why fear an OSHA visit? Inviting OSHA for an evaluation, or audit, is intended to provide a review of safety programs and strategies to determine their effectiveness. OSHA audits are an opportunity for improvement and if seen as the evaluations they are, will be much less frightening.

Audits versus inspections

Often, fear of an OSHA visit can be traced back to a misunderstanding of what their intent is for visiting our facilities. Regardless of what triggered an audit or inspection, the focus is on safety, but the method varies slightly. An audit is meant to review routine processes, safety programs, training, and work practices to determine if appropriate protections are in place for workers. OSHA auditors want to ensure we’re not only compliant with OSHA regulations, but that we’re doing what we say we’re doing. They want to confirm that behaviors at our facilities align with the safety expectations we’ve established for our workforce. When looking at audits in this way, we realize that we are being held to our own standards as they relate to OSHA regulations. So, the only fear is fear itself and that can be eliminated.

On the flip side, OSHA inspections are designed to identify workplace hazards and unsafe work practices. OSHA inspectors have one goal and that is to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations and ensure workers are protected from recognized hazards. Inspections are often unannounced and could result in citations and penalties if certain non-compliance is determined. One similarity inspections have with audits is that they also need not be feared if our focus is worker safety and regulatory compliance as a regular practice.

Ease the fear of an OSHA audit

The best way to combat fear and anxiety over an OSHA audit is to be prepared. By understanding what they will likely review, we can enhance our safety program to meet and exceed regulatory requirements. Here are some primary components of an OSHA audit:

  1. Comparing worker exposures with established protective measures and controls.
  2. Comparing worker injury logs with employment hours and related worker data.
  3. Comparing safety program documentation with observed work practices.
  4. Comparing training documentation with observed work practices.
  5. Reviewing documentation of employee participation in safety programs and initiatives (safety culture).

Interviewing employees is also an essential part of an OSHA audit. Interviews should not be cause for fear either. If employees are protected, trained, and benefit from frequent open communication about safety, they’ll be able to answer auditor questions and portray a positive safety culture.

Key to remember

Understanding the intent of an OSHA audit is the first step to combatting our fearful mindset. Audits are designed to gain insight into the effectiveness of our safety programs and work practices and aid us in improving protective measures for workers. There is no reason to fear an OSHA audit, especially when we are focused on worker safety and complying with regulations and our own safety policies and procedures.