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June 06, 2013
Can OSHA close down your business?

OSHA will conduct about 40,000 inspections this year. With 7 million U.S. workplaces, there’s certainly a chance that your site will not be inspected. But if you are in a hazardous industry, one that’s part of a special emphasis program, or the subject of a complaint, you may well be on the list.

We asked an OSHA spokesperson to clarify some misconceptions about inspections, including the idea that the agency has the authority to close down a business.

Not true, says OSHA. However, if an inspector determines that a hazard poses an imminent danger to employees—a hazard that can cause immediate death or serious physical harm—the inspector will request that workers be immediately removed from the hazard.

If the employer refuses to follow the inspector’s recommendation, OSHA has the right to ask a federal court to order the employer to eliminate the imminent danger.

Another big issue is how to best prepare for an inspection. Because OSHA inspections are unannounced, the best way to prepare for them is to make sure you’re in compliance with OSHA regulations every day. To get a real sense of what an inspection is like without the risk of citations, OSHA recommends scheduling a visit from the agency’s On-site Consultation Program. It offers a free and confidential service for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Consultants work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site consultation is separate from enforcement and does not result in penalties or citations. Learn more at http://www.OSHA.gov/consultation.

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