State Safety Agencies Most Likely to Inspect Retailers

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By Bruce Rolfsen

June 22 — Stores and their related warehouses are more likely to be inspected in some states that have their own workplace safety agencies than are retailers in states covered by federal OSHA, a report looking at nearly six months worth of inspections found.

The study by the law firm Haynes and Boone LLP covered the first half of fiscal year 2015.

Accounting for 41 percent of the 1,591 inspections studied were four state plans—California (174), North Carolina (93), Oregon (124) and Washington (79)—and Puerto Rico's safety agency (183).

Haynes and Boone attorney Matthew Deffebach, whose practice includes retail industry clients, said state plans' propensity to inspect retailers, compared with federal OSHA, reflects different enforcement priorities.

None of the states had specific programs targeting retailers, however some inspections might have been connected to emphasis programs covering a particular hazard in a store such as amputation risks.

Looking for Violations

The enforcement analysis also found that inspectors were less likely to issue citations to retail companies when compared with the national average for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Only 54 percent of inspections by state and federal inspectors resulted in citations being issued, the report said.

The federal OSHA average is about 70 percent, while for state plans the average is about 59 percent, federal OSHA data showed.

Even when citations were based on complaints, often from current or former employees, citations were issued in only 57 percent of those inspections, the study found.

Deffebach said he was surprised by the low percentage of inspections that produce citations.

“Maybe it's because I represent clients who have been cited, but if you're inspected, you believe OSHA will find something,” Deffebach said.

The report doesn't offer an explanation for the low citation rate. Deffebach speculated that if inspectors go to a store and don't see obvious violations, they may decide to leave in order to inspect another workplace.

More Other-Than-Serious

When violations were found, 51 percent were serious and 44 percent were other-than-serious. Repeat and willful violations accounted for 5 percent. Deffebach said the comparatively high number of other-than-serious violations show inspectors were often citing minor problems.

In comparison, OSHA enforcement information for all federal inspections showed that in 2015, about 18 percent of cited hazards were other-than-serious violations and 77 percent were serious violations.

The most common cited standards covered powered industrial trucks (29 C.F.R. 1910.178) and hazard communication (29 C.F.R. 1910.1200), each with about 220 violations, the report found.

Electrical standards were the third and fourth most-cited standards—general electrical requirements (29 C.F.R. 1910.303) and electrical wiring methods (29 C.F.R. 1910.305).

Exit routes (29 C.F.R. 1910.37) and portable fire extinguishers (29 C.F.R. 1910.157) were the next most common rule violations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at .

For More Information

The Haynes and Boone report is available at

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