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What To Do When an OSHA Inspector Arrives at Your Job

What are the do's and don'ts when it comes to OSHA visits? Make sure to have a safety meeting on this topic at least once a year so your employees are prepared.

OSHA Inspector at the Job Site

OSHA may make inspections to any work site and rarely will advance notice be provided. These inspections may cover the entire workplace or just a few operations.

OSHA inspectors are referred to as Compliance Officers and they may have training on safety hazards or health hazards (or both).

Why OSHA may select a company for inspection, in order of priority:

  • Imminent Danger, when there is a good chance that a hazard could result in death or serious harm.
  • Fatal or Catastrophic Accidents, all work-related fatalities must be reported within 8 hours and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.
  • Employee Complaints of unsafe working conditions or alleged safety violations.
  • Program Inspections in industries that have a higher than normal accident rate.
  • Special Emphasis Programs that are currently being targeted by OSHA, like Excavations for example.
  • Follow-up Inspections to verify that cited violations have been corrected (abated).
Best Practice: Because OSHA visits are unannounced, ensure that the work site is compliant at all times.

WHEN AN OSHA COMPLIANCE OFFICER ARRIVES ON SITE, here is what all employees and managers should know about ahead of time.

  1. Notify the person responsible for the site, such as the supervisor, manager, project superintendent or owner.
  2. Request identification, write down the Compliance Officer's name and ID number, and ask which area office they represent.
  3. The purpose of the inspection should be stated by the Compliance Officer before or during an opening conference at the beginning of the visit.
  4. A manager should escort the Compliance Officer at all times.
  5. During the walk-around inspection, the Compliance Officer is permitted to take notes and photographs and shall comply with the safety and health rules required at the job site.
  6. Employees may be interviewed or written statements may be requested.
  7. A company representative should take notes and photos of all inspection activities.
  8. A closing conference will be arranged to allow the Compliance Officer to review any violations observed and refer to applicable OSHA standards.
  9. Instructions on follow-up procedures will be provided at the end of the inspection.
OSHA Inspector with Two Supervisors at Job Site, Wearing Hardhats

During the inspection, everyone on site should follow these guidelines:

  • Be cooperative.
  • Do not evade questions or try to hide anything.
  • Answer questions truthfully, but do not speculate.
  • Do not be sarcastic or argumentative.
  • Do not volunteer information, answer only the questions asked.
  • Do not volunteer an admission of guilt.
  • Take notes, measurements and photos.
  • If possible, fix any violation immediately.
OSHA Standard 1926.3(a)(1) states that any authorized representative shall have a right of entry to any site of contract performance … to inspect or investigate the matter of compliance with the safety and health standards…

Can the foreman of the job site refuse to let the Compliance Officer on site? Yes, but it is not recommended. It is always best to cooperate with any OSHA compliance officer.

Does the Compliance Officer need to show a warrant? No, but entry can be refused until a warrant is provided. However, cooperation with OSHA is always recommended and granting immediate entry will get the inspection off to a good start.

Can an employee refuse to be interviewed? Yes, but cooperation by all employees is advisable. An employee can ask that they have another person with them during the interview.

If hardhats or PPE are required in the work area, can the Compliance Officer refuse to comply with the PPE requirements since they work for OSHA? No, the Compliance Officer must wear any PPE required in the work area they are inspecting.

What can happen if the company receives a citation? If a violation is recorded, OSHA will require a corrective and preventive action plan, the violation will be on the company's public record and there may be a financial penalty assessed.


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