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You are here:   About Us > What We Do > Legal Powers of OSHA Inspectors
Legal Powers of OSHA Inspectors
The duties and responsibilities given to inspectors under the OSH Act are helpful in fostering compliance. Inspectors under the OSH Act can:
  • Enter, inspect and examine any place of work covered by the OSH Act.
  • Request the presence or assistance of a police officer in any situation where there is serious obstruction to their duties.
  • Request relevant documents in order to inspect, examine or copy them.
  • Conduct examinations and inquiries to ascertain whether there is compliance with the OSH Act.
  • Investigate accidents occurring in industrial establishment..
  • Issue improvement notices, prohibition notices and initiate prosecution procedures in the Industrial Court, or in specific cases, the Criminal Court.
Enforcement policy

The main purpose of OSHA’s activities is to achieve compliance, if possible on a voluntary basis. When necessary, compulsory compliance is used by applying stricter enforcement instruments and methods. The way the OSH Agency does this is formulated in its Enforcement Policy. It sets out the principles of equity, practicality and consistent enforcement that OSHA expects to achieve by ensuring that actions required are proportionate to the risk and that the consequences of non-compliance are clearly understood.  

Appropriate use of enforcement powers, including prosecutions, will secure not only compliance with the law, but also ensure that those who have duties under it may be held to account for failures to safeguard the safety, health and welfare of employees and those persons who, although not employees, are likely to be affected by exposure to risks created by work activity.

The Enforcement Process

The standard enforcement process is three pronged:
  1. Voluntary Compliance -  Having conducted an inspection, and where an employer is willing to comply with any legal requirements identified during the inspection, the Inspector will discuss with the employer the actions to be taken, share best practices or possible solutions to comply, and the time limit for rectifying the situation.  The inspector will request rectification of these legal shortcomings verbally or in a written form (a “compliance letter”).
  2. Compulsory Compliance - Where a duty holder is not willing to comply, or has failed to voluntarily comply, the Inspector will issue an Improvement Notice which would require the duty holder to implement specific measures within a specific time period.

    However, in cases of serious imminent danger to the safety and/or health of employees, the public or environment, the Inspector will issue a Prohibition Notice which shall have immediate effect to prohibit the use of either the entire industrial establishment (workplace) or part thereof. 

  3. Prosecution -  Prosecutions shall be commenced in cases where there is continued failure by a duty holder to show evidence of either voluntary or compulsory compliance.  Prosecutions shall also be considered in cases of serious accidents and accidents that result in fatalities.

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