An inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an occurrence that almost every contractor dreads. However, if you are following proper procedure, this need not be a terrifying or stressful experience. Here is an overview of how to handle that unrequested OSHA inspection and make sure that you are operating in all the right ways.
Inspections often result from complaints filed by one or more staff. OSHA is not required to give advance notice of an inspection, and in fact will only do so if there is imminent danger present that needs to be corrected immediately, if the inspection has to be scheduled after regular operating hours, if special preparations are required, or in situation where representatives have to be present or a serious accident or fatality has occurred.
In fact, in many cases it is a crime for OSHA employees to give unauthorized notification of an impending inspection.
Designate a Representative
When the OSHA inspector arrives, be sure to designate an employee representative. The law grants you the right to have a worker-authorized representative accompany the inspector throughout the entire inspection. If you have a union workplace, deciding on such a individual is an easy process to complete. The union will have a designated representative. If you do not have a union, your staff will have to designate one of their own to serve in this respect.
When the inspector arrives, they will ask to meet with employee and management representatives for an initial conference. Stay calm and answer any questions as truthfully and in as much detail as possible. Be sure you understand the hazards of any complaint that resulted in the inspection. This conference should be brief and to the point. Be ready to provide your OSHA Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illness as well as all other required OSHA records.
The inspector will then, accompanied by representatives of management and staff, walk around the facility to check on the causes of the complaint. You should be sure that they have access to any employee affected by the conditions set forth in the complaint. Do not try to hide anything or change your usual operating procedures. Inspectors are trained to notice such things. This is not a situation where asking for forgiveness is better than permission. The more open you are, the better off you will be, and you may avoid costly fines by being honest.
After the walk around, the inspector will sit down for a closing conference with management and employee representatives. This conference can be with everyone at once, or there can be separate conferences for managers and employees. Any apparent violations will be discussed at this time as well as options for correcting hazards and violations. Possible fines will also be explained at this time.