What happens during an OSHA investigation?

Last week, our Worcester personal injury law blog discussed the story of a worker who was injured when a window-washing platform collapsed and fell off the Hancock Tower. We concluded the post -- as we often do with stories related to workers injured on the job -- by noting that an OSHA investigation was underway. But what, our readers may want to know, will such an investigation entail?

The agency itself offers an investigation fact sheet which goes into detail about this subject. We'll summarize some key points here for our readers in Worcester, but want to emphasize that this is general information only and not intended as specific legal advice.

OSHA inspectors, it should be noted, go to a site having already researched its history, including any previous records of inspections. This way, they have a sense of what they should expect to find if the location is operating within safety parameters. Upon arrival, they will identify themselves and discuss the inspection plan with the employer, who will then choose a representative to go along for the inspection. At this point, a representative authorized by the employees themselves may also accompany the OSHA compliance officer.

This team will proceed to walk around the site, looking out for any potentially dangerous conditions or hazards. The officer will point out anything he or she notes to the company and employee representatives, and will interview some employees in private. The collected findings will be further reviewed during a closing conference, along with any recommended corrective measures or penalties. After the inspection is over, penalties may be issued and the employer may comply or try to appeal.

What does this mean for employees in Worcester? For one thing, of course, an inspection is intended to help ensure the workplace is free from unsafe working conditions. But for employees who already have suffered injuries and whose workers' compensation claims have run into resistance from the employer's insurance company, an OSHA investigation can provide valuable evidence to support their claims.