The OSHA Incident Investigation Best Practices: Before, During, and After an OSHA Investigation

Safety affects the bottom line of a company’s operations. On average, employers will spend $120,00 on each workplace injury. A company must create a response plan before an emergency and train personnel on OSHA Incident Investigations. OSHA must be contacted within 8 hours of a fatality or 24 hours of work-related in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. Below is a quick summary of how to prepare for an OSHA incident investigation.

(1) Before on OSHA Incident Investigation

Before a workplace accident occurs, it is essential to have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in place. The ERP should be developed for your specific workplace environment and hazards. Communicate with your public emergency services beforehand, so they know your facility and its hazards.  Create a contact list for emergencies and appoint an individual who has the authority to make quick decisions on behalf of the company. Consider how your company would respond to media and press coverage in the event of an accident.

Remove all non-essential workers from the area and secure an area around any continuing danger or hazard to workers in the event of an accident. Call your attorney and critical corporate personnel to the scene to assist with the investigation and OSHA visit. Once the area is secure, conduct an accident investigation before the site conditions change, witnesses leave, and equipment is moved.

Planning before an OSHA inspection is a must. Ensure safety managers and supervisors know their roles and responsibilities during an OSHA inspection.

(2) During an OSHA Incident Investigation

Once an OSHA Investigator arrives, take them to a designated room or private place to talk during the Open Conference. Inform the OSHA Investigator that you will be taking detailed notes of everything discussed and that you would prefer them to advise the company of all suspected violations and the standard involved. Cooperate professionally with the Investigator.

Do not provide the OSHA Investigator with internal or subcontractor incident reports. Only prove the company’s safety programs. Other records can be sent to OSHA after your attorney and management approve.

During the walk-around inspection, have a company representative accompany the OSHA Investigator at all times. An OSHA investigator is not limited to the site of the injury when investigating an accident and may identify numerous citable conditions unrelated to the accident. If possible, take the Investigator directly to the location of the accident and return to the designated room after. Document everything discussed, seen, and noted by the OSHA Investigator.

During OSHA interviews, always tell the truth and ensure you understand the question. OSHA has the right to interview employees privately, but not a member of the management.

(3) After an OSHA Incident Investigation

The deadline to issue citations is six months after the inspection. Employers only have 15 working days to contest, attend an Informal conference, or pay the fine. Provide all citations issued immediately to your attorney to help prepare responses.

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