When it comes to an OSHA inspection, it does matter who the inspector is.
That’s just one of the conclusions in a study by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace. It was conducted for the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation.
There is a substantial amount of variation among inspectors in many inspection practices, even when the type of inspection is the same, according to the report, Are There Unusually Effective Occupational Safety and Health Inspectors and Inspection Practices?
Some examples of variations in Cal/OSHA inspection practices:
- On average, 37% of inspections ended with no violations cited. However, for some inspectors that number was as low as 17%, while for others it was as high as 61%.
- Average number of violations cited per inspection: 3. But some inspectors averaged just 1 violation while others averaged 5.
- Median penalty per violation: $115. The range was from $65 to $217.
- Median total penalty amount: $417. The range was from $196 to $1,044.
While this has a definite financial effect on the businesses inspected, the study found it didn’t have much impact on reduction of injuries after an inspection.
It’s been shown through previous studies that businesses tend to have fewer injuries after an OSHA inspection.
Given that previous finding, the one factor that did make a difference in how many injuries a business experienced after a Cal/OSHA inspection was the inspector’s experience. Inspections by personnel with more experience tended to reduce injury rates more. That echoes the finding in an earlier study conducted with a national sample of federal OSHA inspectors.
The study’s authors say this finding suggests the importance of retaining experienced inspectors and perhaps hiring people who already have some occupational safety experience.