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Safety and health inspection frequently asked questions

Both company owners and employees need to know how health and safety inspections work. These are carried out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, working under the power granted them by the Act of the same name. Below are a few common questions and answers.

-- Can an employee ask for an inspection to be done?

Yes. If you feel your workplace is unsafe, you can put in the request. The only stipulation is that you must work for a company that is technically covered by the aforementioned Occupational Safety and Health Act.

-- Are inspections done even when requests are not made?

Yes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration may decide to carry out an inspection, even if no employee has put in the request. They also do investigations after accidents that cause injury or take lives.

-- What is the scope of the inspection?

It depends on the case. Sometimes, just a specific part of the company will be inspected. Other times, the whole workplace will be inspected.

-- Do inspectors look mainly for safety issues or health issues?

They look for both. However, the inspectors -- "compliance officers," in OSHA terms -- do usually have a focus. Some have training in both areas, but most focus on health issues, like an unsanitary workplace or safety issues, like machines that are used without the proper safety gear.

The investigations and inspections that OSHA carries out are very important in keeping the workplace safe, even before an accident occurs. However, if you were injured and the accident is what triggered the investigation, you may be able to get compensation for your injuries.

Source: National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, "The OSHA Inspection: A Step-by-Step Guide," accessed Dec. 09, 2016

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