Even if you have nothing to hide, an OSHA inspection can be intimidating. The best way to calm your nerves about a potential check is to understand what OSHA inspections entail and how you can prepare for them. In this blog post, we will answer some of your most frequently asked questions:
- What is an OSHA inspection?
- What happens during an OSHA inspection?
- How do I prepare for an OSHA inspection?
Let’s get started!
Why Does OSHA Perform Inspections?
There are four main reasons OSHA performs inspections.
- The Complaint Inspection: The most common reason OSHA inspects a business is because an employee has filed an official complaint with OSHA about the business’ safety practices.
- The Fatality & Accidents Inspection: OSHA may inspect a business after a report of workplace injuries or fatalities that affected three or more people. This includes accidents and injuries that don’t result in hospitalizations or deaths.
- The Programmed Inspection: These inspections target random businesses that are deemed particularly dangerous or hazardous according to their Standard Industry Classification (SIC) Codes.
- The Imminent Danger Inspection: Thankfully, these OSHA inspections occur the least frequently, as the prompt is reports of imminent dangers.
When OSHA shows up on your doorstep, you should ask them what prompted the inspection so that you’re better prepared for what comes next.
What to Do Once OSHA Initiates an Inspection?
Once OSHA appears and is ready for the inspection, you have two choices.
- Let them in without a problem
- Request that the OSHA inspectors obtain an administrative warrant before you allow them into the building
Depending on the state, some OSHA inspectors will come with a warrant in hand. If they don’t already have one, and the workplace demands one, the delay to get a warrant can be anywhere from a few days to a week. While this delay can give businesses time to ensure everything is in order for the inspection, most of the time when businesses request a warrant, it’s merely due to company policy.
It’s important to note that OSHA will almost always take the time to get an administrative warrant, so requesting one will not put off the inspection forever.
What is the Inspection Process Like?
The OSHA inspection process consists of five major steps: the opening conference, the walkaround, employee interviews, records reviews, and the closing ceremony.
Step 1: Opening Conference
As the name suggests, the opening conference is the first meeting between the OSHA inspector and management. At this point, the OSHA inspector will explain what prompted the inspection and provide documentation. If the inspection is due to a workplace complaint, the inspector will provide a copy for the employer’s records.
If the inspection is a Programmed Inspection, the employer will need to explain their business to the OSHA inspector and provide their SIC documentation. The inspector and management will also need to ensure they’re aligned on what areas of operations the inspector can look at as determined by the SIC code.
Step 2: The Walkaround
Once the opening conference is finished, the OSHA inspector will start their walkaround of the appropriate areas of the building and business operations. An employee is allowed to escort the inspector throughout their entire walkaround. Employers are also able to restrict the walkaround to only the areas in question by the inspection.
Throughout the walkaround, the inspector will take photos or videos showing the presence of or lack of OSHA violations—mainly, they will focus on areas mentioned in any complaints. Inspectors will also take measurements and test air quality to complete the walkaround inspection.
Step 3: Employee Interviews
While the OSHA inspector is completing their walkaround, they should interview around 10% of employees and at least one employee in each operational function. These interviews are short and are mostly conducted “over the shoulder” or while the employee is still working. The inspector simply looks over the employee’s shoulder and asks them the questions.
The interview questions cover simple topics: the employee’s job duties, their level of training, and their understanding of the hazards that face them.
Step 4: Reviewing Records
The OSHA inspector finishes their inspection by reviewing any and all OSHA-required documents and records. This typically includes OSHA 200 logs, OSHA 101 forms, and written programs. All of these documents must be relevant to the inspection and must be within OSHA’s required documentation; inspectors cannot review records that other regulatory agencies require.
Step 5: Closing Conference
The inspection is officially over when the inspector calls the closing conference. At this point, the inspector will summarize their findings and note any citations or fines the business may be receiving. If the employer doesn’t agree with the citation or findings, they have 15 days to protest the findings to the area office.
Learn About OSHA Inspections with Outreach Training
The best way to avoid any trouble when you’re faced with an OSHA inspection is to adhere to OSHA standards. For the most in-depth and up-to-date information, sign up for one of our OSHA Outreach training courses today!