The Occupational Safety and Health Administration performs an inspection or investigation whenever it suspects an employer of violating its health and safety standards. OSHA maintains a record of employer offenses, which the general public can access through the agency's online database or by sending a written request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Searching OSHA's Database
To perform an online query, visit the Establishment Search page of OSHA's website. Enter the following:
- Company name
- Employer state
- Whether you require records of all cases, or just the open or closed ones
- Whether you need information on all cases, or only on those with or without violations
- The inspection date range.
The database has a default date range of five years, but you can search for up to 10 years at a time. After you submit your request, the database will search for violations and any citations and penalties issued. If violations are found, you will receive a report showing the offenses and how the citations were resolved, such as whether penalties were paid.
Freedom of Information Act Request
Under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, members of the general public have the right to request and receive information from federal government agencies, including OSHA. Unless the act specifically prohibits disclosure, the agency must release the information. Make your request in writing and include:
- Your full name, address and phone number
- The role in which you are making the query, such as educational institution or "other" if you are a member of the general public or an employee
- A clear description of the information you are seeking, such as a record of OSHA violations for the employer in question and the time frame you want covered
- A statement asking the agency to tell you whether you must pay any fees for making the request.
As of 2015, fees for requesting OSHA records typically run up to $25. You can state the amount you are willing to pay in your letter. If the agency thinks the cost will be more than $25, it will inform you of the estimate and steps you can take to reduce the amount such as reducing the scope of your search request.
FOIA requests should be sent to the disclosure officer that likely has the records being sought. For your OSHA-related inquiry, you can mail your letter to the National OSHA FOIA Officer, at the address stated on the agency's website. Or you can fax or email your query. The website also lists the regional offices where you can send your inquiry if you want data concerning inspections that happened in a certain state. Requesters who cannot determine who their disclosure officer is can send their request to the Office of the Solicitor, Division of Management and Administrative Legal Services.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency has 20 business days to process your request.
If you agree to pay the fee, you might be bound to pay it even if the search does not yield any results.
Records that cannot be disclosed under the FOIA include classified data designed to protect national security and information that is protected from disclosure by another federal law. Revealing information that clearly constitutes an invasion of an individual's privacy, such as personnel and medical records, is also prohibited.
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.