How OSHA Decides to Inspect a Workplace

Posted on 3/17/2023 by Nick Waldron and Roger Marks

OSHA added enforcement staff and performed more than 30,000 health & safety inspections of US workplaces in FY 2022, estimates suggest. That's about 7,000 more than the agency completed in 2021, and signals a return to pre-pandemic enforcement levels after a combination of factors caused inspection numbers to plummet in 2020.

In its budget request for FY 2023, the Department of Labor stated that funding from Congress would “support OSHA’s efforts to double the number of inspectors” by January 2025.

How OSHA Decides to Inspect a Workplace

How OSHA Prioritizes Inspections 

Even with increased staff, OSHA can visit only a fraction of the 7 million work sites under the agency’s jurisdiction in any year. To focus energy and resources efficiently, OSHA prioritizes its efforts so that the “most hazardous” workplaces are first on the list. 

OSHA prioritizes its time and resources using a six-tiered system. 

1. Imminent danger situations.

  • An imminent danger situation is a hazard that could cause death or serious physical harm.

2. Severe injuries and illnesses. 

  • OSHA requires employers to report within 8 hours any work-related fatality and to report the most severe types of injuries or illnesses—those involving hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye—within 24 hours

3. Worker complaints. 

  • OSHA follows up on allegations by employees about hazardous conditions or OSHA violations on the job. Employees who report unsafe workplaces are treated as whistle blowers under the law; they may remain anonymous and are protected from retaliation

4. Referrals.

  • OSHA receives reports from individuals, organizations, and all levels of government agencies. A media report about unsafe working conditions could catch officials' attention as well. 

5. Targeted inspections.

  • Inspections aimed at specific high-hazard industries or workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses. OSHA relies, in part, on injury and illness data submitted by employers to target sites under this enforcement program.

More: OSHA's Site Specific Targeting (SST) Program. 

6. Follow-up inspections. 

  • OSHA will return to a workplace where they found violations to ensure the violation has been corrected since the initial (or most recent) inspection.

New Video: OSHA's Inspection Process

OSHA also recently released a video that explains the inspection process and enforcement priorities, including the list above. 

With more OSHA inspectors visiting more workplaces, and more aggressive enforcement policies in place this year, knowing how the safety agency prioritizes which establishments to visit is valuable for employers Understanding OSHA's process for determining which workplaces inspectors visit first can give employers perspective on when, and why, OSHA might come to visit.

Workplace Safety Training for Frequently Cited Violations

Beef up your knowledge of the OSHA Standards that may now be subject to instance-by-instance penalties.

Lion’s online OSHA safety training covers key requirements for employers and can help to satisfy employee training requirements found in many of OSHA’s most broadly applicable Standards.

Check out for a full range of convenient online safety training that includes Lion Membership for ongoing regulatory compliance support.

Try the 10 Hour Training for General Industry workers to get a sense of the most common hazards in general industry, and what OSHA requires from employers.

Tags: osha, OSHA compliance

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

As always, Lion never disappoints

Paul Resley

Environmental Coordinator

Well designed and thorough program. Excellent summary of requirements with references. Inclusion of regulations in hard copy form, as well as full electronic with state pertinent regulations included is a great bonus!

Oscar Fisher

EHS Manager

This was the 1st instructor that has made the topic actually enjoyable and easy to follow and understand. Far better than the "other" training providers our company has attended!

Lori Hardy

Process & Resource Administrator

The instructor does a great job at presenting material in an approachable way. I have been able to save my company about $30,000 in the last year with what I have learned from Lion!

Curtis Ahonen

EHS&S Manager

Lion is easily and consistently the best option for compliance training. I've learned new information from every instructor I've had.

Rachel Mathis

EHS Specialist

The exercises in the DOT hazardous materials management course are especially helpful in evaluating your understanding of course information.

Morgan Bliss

Principal Industrial Hygienist

The instructor was probably the best I ever had! He made the class enjoyable, was humorous at times, and very knowledgeable.

Mary Sue Michon

Environmental Administrator

I have attended other training providers, but Lion is best. Lion is king of the hazmat jungle!!!

Henry Watkins

Hazardous Waste Technician

The instructor created a great learning environment.

Avinash Thummadi

CAD & Environmental Manager

My experience with Lion classes has always been good. Lion Technology always covers the EPA requirements I must follow.

Steven Erlandson

Environmental Coordinator

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Some limited quantity reliefs are reserved for specific modes of transport. Use this guide to identify which reliefs you can capitalize on, and which do not apply to your operations.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.