When a workplace hazard is reported, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administrators may choose to investigate the matter on-site or from their own offices.

What prompts the on-site inspection? One of eight different criteria must be met before an OSHA representative will consider making an in-person visit.

First, a written complaint must be sent to OSHA, signed by either a person currently working at the facility or someone who represents the workers there. That complaint must detail the danger or violation that is alleged to exist. That hazard must place workers in some type of imminent danger of physical harm.If the hazard has already caused a worker physical harm or has previously been ordered to be fixed, but hasn’t been, then this may warrant an on-site inspection by an OSHA representative.

Any employer that has a history of failing to make necessary changes pursuant to OSHA citations during the past three years also has a strong likelihood of being investigated on-site. So too may any facility currently undergoing an inspection for another violation.

If a safety concern is reported by an employee working in an industry or for a company being monitored as part of OSHA’s emphasis programs, then they may receive an in-person inspection. Any case referred to them by a whistleblower may be handled by an OSHA representative on-site.

OSHA prioritizes cases that are most apt to cause workers to suffer physical harm or die above all others. Those that are likely to cause a catastrophic accident that will hospitalize at least three workers are their secondary priority. All other complaints fall below those.

When an investigator comes out to inspect a hazard, they will generally just focus their attention on the one issue that was cited in the complaint. If the worker that escorts them through the worksite discloses additional concerns, then the investigator may ask to speak with additional employees or to see additional workplace hazards.

Employers are required to report worker injuries and deaths to OSHA within as little as eight hours after they occur. Often times they don’t do this, however, because they don’t want to potentially have their operations shut down or their insurance company alerted. This may impact how much an employer is willing to tell you about your rights to workers’ compensation coverage after an injury — something that a Knoxville workplace injuries attorney can fill you in on.