← Back to the UpKeep blog

Federal OSHA: An Overview

UpKeep’s OSHA series is a collection of easy-to-digest resources and compliance checklists based on Federal and State OSHA Plans .
For those in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry looking for additional resources, check out our SQF Audit Food Safety Checklists here.

What’s Ahead?


A General Overview of Federal OSHA

OSHA is the main governing body in the US that is in charge of regulating, monitoring, and enforcing occupational health and safety standards in the workplace.

Who is Federal OSHA for?

The Federal OSHA standards apply to two categories of employees: 1) Private sector employees in states where the OSHA-approved state plan only covers state/local government workers and 2) Private sector employees in states that do not have an OSHA State plan. These states include:

For more information on which states fall under Federal OSHA, check out the OSHA Federal and State Plans page!

Almost every business in the states listed will need to consider the OSHA standards and regulations that are applicable to their industry. In large facilities, ensuring compliance may be driven by a Compliance Manager or EHS Manager. In smaller facilities, or one where there is no Compliance or EHS Manager, this information will be important to a Facility Manager, HR Representative, or other designated personnel.

While it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for their employees, employees also need to be aware of these standards! Federal OSHA requires all covered private sector employers display an OSHA Workplace Poster in an obvious area within the workplace where all employees can easily see it. To download one for your workplace, go here.

Why is OSHA important?

The health and safety of employees is critically important to any well-run business; however, some workplaces have more hazards than others, so ensuring overall health and safety can be more challenging. OSHA standards apply to all workplaces, but they become even more important in workplaces where there is known risk to the employees.

OSHA has also developed specific guidelines for industries where there is more risk. These industries include construction, maritime, and agriculture. Ultimately, whether working in a more high risk space like construction, or in a low risk space like an office environment, complying with OSHA ensures employers are taking necessary precautions to protect employees from harm in the workplace.

What is included in OSHA?

OSHA standards cover all areas of employee occupational health and safety. There are also specific standards and guidelines for certain higher-risk industries and workplaces. For those in general industry the following standards are included:

  • Hazard Communication Standard
  • Emergency Action Plan Standard
  • Fire Safety
  • Exit Routes
  • Walking/Working Surfaces
  • Medical and First Aid

Additional standards that may apply depending on workplace:

  • Machine Guarding
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Respirators
  • Noise
  • Confined Spaces
  • Blood or Bodily Fluids
  • Powered Industrial Trucks

This list is not comprehensive, but can be a good place to start! It is up to date as of May 2020. For additional resources and more in depth analysis, visit Federal OSHA Laws and Regulations.


How do I prepare for a Federal OSHA Inspection?

Specific preparation tips for an OSHA inspection will vary based on whether the inspection is regularly scheduled, or the a result of an employee request, incident, referral, etc. A few general questions to keep in mind that will make the process as seamless as possible, include:

  • Where will you hold the opening conference?
  • Who will meet the OSHA inspector and accompany them on the walk around?
  • Do you have materials, camera, or other items you can use to document and record what the inspector sees and points out?
  • Can you quickly locate records, logs, and plans that the inspector might request?

How can I be ‘Inspection Ready’ at all times?

  • Avoid using paper and pencil for any documentation. Technology is your friend here!
  • Move to a digital system to prevent lost records. This also makes the inspector’s life easier and allows them to more easily refer back and review prior work.
  • Conduct your own internal compliance inspections on a consistent basis; ensure SOPs and protocols are clearly posted and fully understood.
  • Train staff to do hazard inspections of your operations and document the findings. If possible, have staff in a different department conduct these inspections.

How often does an OSHA inspection occur?

The frequency of an OSHA inspection is dependent on several factors, but generally, OSHA focuses its time, energy, and inspection resources on the most dangerous workplaces in the following order of priority:

  1. Imminent Danger Situations
  2. Severe Injuries and Illnesses
  3. Worker Complaints
  4. Referrals
  5. Targeted Inspections
  6. Follow-Up Inspections

Top 10 OSHA Safety Violations of 2019

As cited by Patrick Kapust, Deputy Director of OSHA, these are the most common safety violations OSHA encountered conducting inspections during 2019. The numbers in parentheses reference the particular section standard information can be found!

  1. Fall Protection — General Requirements (1926.50)
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451)
  4. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
  5. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)
  6. Ladders (1926.1053)
  7. Powered Industrial Tucks (1910.178)
  8. Fall Protection — Training Requirements (1926.503)
  9. Machine Guarding (1910.212)
  10. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102)

What to do if you’ve been cited following an inspection?

  • Some violations are minor and can be addressed with a prompt remediation.
  • Follow up with your inspector on corrective action plans shortly after your inspection and work closely with your in-house team to ensure follow through with that plan.
  • Immediately share any requested documents with your inspector following the inspection.

OSHA Self-Inspection Checklist

Conducting internal inspections of your facility helps create a safe workplace for employees by highlighting issues and allowing them to be addressed before something major happens. This checklist is based on Federal OSHA standards and is broken down by area. Within the Sheet, use Control + F to find the checklist relevant to the area you are focused on.

View Checklists

Checklist for Use During OSHA Compliance Inspection

An inspection from OSHA can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. This checklist demystifies the structure and process and is a great resource to be used on the day of the inspection to keep yourself organized. It provides tasks to be done at each point along the way and is based on the structure of an OSHA inspection.

View Checklist


Examples of Completed Federal OSHA Audits

Attribution: The resources presented here were sourced from OSHA. For additional reading, tools and context please visit them here.

Love this post? Notice an error? Have an idea? If you have feedback about this post, we want to hear it! Share your thoughts with us here.