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VOSH Programs

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Inspection Priorities

VOSH's top priority for inspection is an imminent danger - a situation where workers face an immediate risk of death or serious physical harm. Second priority goes to any fatality or catastrophe - an accident that requires hospitalization of three or more workers. Employers are required to report fatalities and catastrophes to VOSH within eight hours.

Third priority is employee complaints and referrals. Lower inspection priorities include inspections targeted toward high hazard industries, planned inspections in other industries and, finally, follow-up inspections to determine whether previously cited violations have been abated.

Evaluating Employee Complaints

Before beginning an inspection, VOSH staff must be able to determine from the complaint that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of a VOSH standard or a safety or health hazard exists. If VOSH has information indicating the employer is aware of the hazard and is correcting it, the agency may not conduct an inspection after obtaining the necessary documentation from the employer.

Complaint inspections generally are limited to the hazards listed in the complaint, although other violations in plain sight may be cited as well. The inspector may decide to expand the inspection based on his/her professional judgment or conversations with workers.

Complaints are not necessarily inspected in "first come, first served" order. VOSH ranks complaints based on the severity of the alleged hazard and the number of employees exposed. That is why lower priority complaints can often be handled more quickly using the phone/fax method than through on-site inspections.

Worker Involvement in VOSH Inspections

The Labor Laws of Virginia give the workers' representative the right to accompany the VOSH inspector during the inspection. The representative is chosen by the union (if there is one) or by the employees, never by the employer.

If the employees are represented by more than one union, each union may choose a representative. Normally, the representative of each union will not accompany the inspector for the entire inspection, but will join the inspection when it reaches the area where those union members work.

Workers have a right to talk privately to the inspector on a confidential basis whether or not a workers' representative has been chosen. Workers are encouraged to point out hazards, describe accidents or illnesses that resulted from those hazards and relate past worker complaints about hazards. Workers should also inform the inspector if working conditions are not the same as usually exist in the workplace.

Keeping Workers And Worker Representatives Informed

After VOSH conducts a phone/fax investigation or an on-site inspection, the agency sends a letter to the worker or worker representative who filed the complaint outlining the findings, including citations and proposed penalties. Copies of citations also must be posted by the employer at or near the site of the violation. This assures that all workers who might be exposed to a hazard are aware of it and understand the need to correct it and the schedule for correction.

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Virginia Department of Labor and Industry - Headquarters: Main Street Centre Bldg. 600 East Main Street, Suite 207, Richmond, Virginia 23219-4101
Telephone Number - Office: 804.371.2327 TDD: Fax: 804.786.2376 - Our Hours are from 8:15 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday - Friday