On-the-job injuries can happen in a construction site or an office cubicle — and everywhere in between. Possible injuries include falls, cuts, bruises, carpal tunnel syndrome, back injury, acid burns, dehydration, heat exhaustion, insect/animal bites, permanent facial scars, lost fingers, broken bones, loss of sight or hearing, and death.
While the greatest consequence of any injury obviously falls on the injured employee and their loved ones, businesses also suffer consequences, such as interrupted production or operations, higher workers' compensation insurance rates, cost to repair damaged equipment, and the cost of hiring personnel to temporarily cover the injured employee's responsibilities.
If the employer is found to be at fault, they can also face fines and citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For over 40 years, OSHA has been regulating businesses in an attempt to minimize health risks to employees as they go about their daily work activities. OSHA fines can be substantial, and in cases of serious injury or death, if OSHA finds a willful violation — that is, if the employer is aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it — additional criminal or civil charges could be filed.
OSHA has a legal right to inspect your business. You can refuse entry, but they will likely return with a warrant and will possibly conduct a more thorough inspection. There are several scenarios that may prompt an OSHA inspection:
- A complaint by an employee or other individual
- Planned inspections on certain industries
- A serious accident or fatality investigation
- A referral from another agency
- Follow-up inspections
Are you prepared if OSHA comes to visit? There are many actions small businesses can take to meet OSHA requirements, one of the most cost-effective of which is adopting a safety program to help recognize potential hazards and prevent work-related injuries and illness. But simply having a safety program isn’t enough; it must also be implemented to satisfy OSHA inspectors. By making implementation of every part of your safety program a top priority, you will signal that your business is making a good-faith effort to comply with applicable OSHA requirements — and may help you avoid a citation.