What’s Involved When You Are Hit With an OSHA Inspection?

No time is a good time for an OSHA inspection. If the inspector finds violations, it can carry significant  penalties and fines. However, even if they don’t find a single problem, it can still be a complicated and time-consuming process. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is a relatively small government agency. Each year they conduct between 35,000 and 40,000 safety inspections. So, knowing what to expect from an inspection is helpful.

Here’s a quick overview of the OSHA inspection process.

The inspection includes three elements. All have implications for your organization; make certain to have the appropriate people present for all three.

The Opening Conference

  • The organization learns of the visit and the scope of the inspection
  • If a complaint is involved, a copy of the complaint will be presented. The complainant’s name will be removed.
  • If an OSHA- and state-funded consultation has recently occurred, notify the inspector. This will usually terminate the inspection or greatly limit its scope.
  • Get all of the appropriate people together for a tour:

— Any management people who may be helpful

— A representative chosen by the employees (If the employees have not done so, the compliance   officer will usually choose the representative.)

— The maintenance worker to effect changes requested by the compliance officer

The OSHA Inspection Tour

  • The route and duration are determined by the compliance officer but are usually limited to the scope given in the opening conference
  • The compliance officer will observe conditions and behaviors
  • Testing, monitoring and sampling may be done
  • Employees are very likely to be questioned. (Every effort will be made to minimize interruptions during work shifts.)
  • Written programs, training materials, postings, documentation and record keeping are usually checked
  • The compliance officer will discuss likely violations and even offer recommendations for corrective action

The Closing Conference

  • All findings will be discussed and recommendations made
  • No penalties will be discussed. The area director will determine penalties at a later date.
  • The length of time needed to correct the problems may be discussed
  • Show any proof of ongoing attempts to become compliant, such as purchase orders for training or materials. Also, programs in progress but not yet complete can be shown, but only for items mentioned by the compliance officer.
  • The compliance officer will notify the company of the appeals process
  • Multiple closing conferences may occur if:

— Videos or photographs must be reviewed

— Samples must be analyzed by a laboratory

— Written programs and paperwork are taken for further evaluation.

— The employees or labor union wish to have a private conference with the inspector.

Once all closing conferences are completed, the compliance officer and area director will discuss the report and findings. The area director will then discuss possible citations, penalties and abatements.

If a citation is issued, a formal Notice of Citation will follow by certified mail. The Notice of Citation will state the standards violated, the gravity of the penalty and the fine to be imposed.

Abatement dates and the appeals window begin on the date that the Notice of Citation is received.

On average, 1,000 employers a week receive OSHA inspections trying to find noncompliance issues. Knowing the inspection process is the first step in helping you prepare.

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