How To Survive an OSHA Inspection

OSHA’s Mission: The OSH Act of 1970
oshaWith the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. OSHA assists and encourages the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.

What You Should Know as an Employer
Employers are expected to know which OSHA standards apply to their industry and are expected to ensure their company’s compliance with applicable standards. However, a company should also know its legal rights when OSHA comes knocking. OSHA has the authority to inspect a given location; to enter without delay; and to investigate the area in question to the satisfaction of the assigned Compliance Officer.

Preparation is Key

  • SMART Safety Group New Hire OrientationTo ensure a smooth OSHA inspection, we advise our clients to assemble a SMART OSHA Inspection Kit, which should include the following items:
    • Camera (extra film/memory cards and batteries)
    • Video camera (extra tapes and batteries)
    • Tape recorder (extra tapes and batteries)
    • Pads, pens, tape measures
    • Noise level meter
    • Air sampling kit

    This kit will allow you to document the inspection in the same manner in which the Compliance Officer does. It is recommended that you take photos from the same place as the Compliance Officer, while taking notes and documenting everything.

    What Triggers an OSHA Inspection?
    Several events may trigger an OSHA inspection. These include, but are not limited to imminent danger; catastrophes and fatal accidents; employee complaints; pre-programmed high-hazard activities; and follow-up inspections.

    Violations & Monetary Penalties
    Penalties assessed by OSHA can be very damaging to a company’s bottom line. Penalties are classified as follows: De Minimis ($0.00); Non-serious ($0 – $7,000); Serious ($0 – $7,000); Repeat ($0 – $70,000); Willful ($5,000 minimum – $70,000 maximum per day); Failure to Abate ($0 – $7,000); New Posting ($0 – $7,000).

    Criminal Penalties
    In addition to monetary penalties, under extreme circumstances criminal penalties may also be assessed. These penalties may be assessed for falsified statements, willful violations of OSHA standards, and/or employee death(s). If classified as criminal penalties, those responsible may receive imprisonment to up to one year and fines of up to $20,000. Furthermore, OSHA Compliance Officers also carry an added level of protection, because OSHA refers to the Justice Department. To this end, resisting or assaulting an OSHA representative can result in a $5,000 fine and/or up to three years in prison.

    When OSHA Comes Knocking
    It’s too late – the company is officially in reaction mode. Each company should have a plan in place prior to an OSHA visit. This plan should include assembling a management team and assigning individual responsibilities. The team should include the following individuals: team coordinator; document control individual; individuals to accompany the Compliance Officer during his/her visit; photographer; Industrial Hygienist; accident investigation team leader; labor representative; and legal counsel.

    Rights of the Employer
    Employers have several rights when an inspection occurs. As an employer, you may waive the company’s rights and voluntarily permit the OSHA inspection. Inspections are typically generated by specific complaints and there are often protected processes, equipment, and/or other items in the workplace being inspected. With this in mind, the Compliance Officer may only view the area in which a specific complaint has been filed and everything directly along the route to this location. To this end, the company should route through areas of a site or plant with a low probability of viewing any alleged violations. It is recommended that the employer follow the methodology below:

    1.  Check the Compliance Officer’s credentials

    • ID Card with photo
    • Name and employee number
    • Call OSHA to verify

    2.  Determine the reason for the inspection.

    • Targeted
    • Routine
    • Accident
    • Complaint

    3.  Take Compliance Officer to the office and keep him/her there
    4.  Notify the highest ranking site employee
    5. Notify the Company office, EHS
    6. Keep the Compliance Officer busy
    7. Only answer direct questions and don’t elaborate or go into great

    Note: The employer may opt to require the Compliance Officer to acquire an administrative search warrant before granting him/her access to the site or facility being inspected; however, it is highly advisable to consult legal counsel before exercising this right.

    OSHA Inspection Steps
    1. The Opening Conference

    • Compliance officer explains purpose of visit
    • Inspection scope
    • Standards that you should be following
    • Complaint copies given to employer
    • Employee representative part of this process

    2. Inspection Tour

    • The duration of inspection is up to the Compliance Officer.
    • He/she will talk with employees in groups or in private.
    • Observes conditions, tools, and equipment.
    • Takes photos, air samples, measurements.
    • Points out unsafe conditions:  If identified, a good practice is to correct deficiencies as you proceed with the tour; however, a citation may still be written.

    3. Closing Conference

    • Compliance Officer discusses any problems identified.
    • A question and answer session is conducted.
    • Discussion of recommended citations observed.
    • No citations will be issued at this point.

    Potential Employee Inspection Questions

    • Name – address – phone number?
    • Are you union or nonunion – What Local?
    • How long have you been at the job?
    • How long have you been union?
    • How long have you worked for this employer?
    • What type of training have you had?
    • What type of specific training for this project
    • have you had?
    • Have you had any OSHA training?
    • Are you a competent person?
    • What is a competent person?
    • Does training make you a competent person?
    • Are scaffolding classes needed?
    • At what distance on scaffolding do you need guardrails?
    • At what height do you tie-off scaffolding?
    • Do you need hard hats on scaffolding?
    • What do you know about electrical hazards?
    • Who is your electrical subcontractor’s competent person on this site?
    • What do you know about fall protection?
    • Have you been trained in fall protection?
    • Have you worked on roofs?
    • Have you ever used non-conventional fall protection?
    • What fall protection does your employer use on roofs?
    • Tell me about your employer?
    • What type of safety programs does your employer have?
    • Do you do jobsite inspections?
    • Does OSHA require you to put your inspections in writing?
    • What are your responsibilities?
    • Do you have job meetings here?
    • Is safety covered in job meetings here?
    • Do you have documentation of these meetings?
    • Do you identify serious hazards?


    Mock OSHA Visit

    If you need help, contact us for a Mock OSHA visit. The Mock visit is designed to get your company ready in case OSHA comes knocking. Contact Us if you are interested.