10 Important Tips to be Aware of During an OSHA Inspection
Most private sector employers in the United States, the District of Columbia and other U.S. jurisdictions are subject to the OSH Act, either directly or through an OSHA-approved state program. State plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states instead of federal OSHA. The OSHA Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.
In general, state and local government employees (public employees) are not subject to the OSH Act. However, public employees may be covered through an approved state program.
OSHA inspections are conducted by OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers. Compliance officers have authority to:
- Conduct inspections;
- Assign specialists to accompany and assist them during an inspection (as appropriate or required);
- Issue citations for noncompliance;
- Obtain court-issued inspection warrants; and
- Issue administrative subpoenas to acquire evidence related to an OSHA inspection or investigation.
Whenever possible, OSHA will assign compliance officers with appropriate security clearances to inspect facilities where materials or processes are classified by the federal government.
Compliance officers are required to obey all employer safety and health rules and practices for the establishment that is being inspected. This includes wearing all required protective equipment and necessary respirators. Compliance officers must also follow restricted access rules until all required precautions have been taken.
Employers can request compliance officers to obtain visitor passes and sign visitor registers. However, compliance officers cannot sign any form or release, nor can they agree to any waiver. This prohibition extends to forms intended to protect trade secret information.
OSHA inspections can last for a few hours or take several days, weeks or even months. All inspections can be divided into three stages, an opening conference, a walk-around and a closing conference.
Tips and Reminders
- Determine the purpose and scope of the inspection
- Be prepared to prove compliance
- Get a copy of the complaint, if possible
- Set ground rules for inspection
- Cooperate and be responsive, but DO NOT volunteer information
- Inspections may last several days. Plan accordingly.
- Require inspectors to comply with establishment safety rules
- Take note of what the inspector documents
- DO NOT stage events or accidents
- DO NOT destroy or tamper with evidence