When OSHA Comes Knocking, Will You Be Ready? Top 5 Tips To Be Ready For An OSHA Inspection

Despite an employer’s best safety practices, accidents eventually happen at every workplace. In 2016, the number of OSHA inspections increased by nearly 20 percent and OSHA’s financial penalties increased by a whopping 79 percent. In light of these statistics, and the fact that OSHA usually shows up unannounced, you need to be well-prepared when OSHA shows up at your door.

1. Have a plan: Decide who will be the designated point of contact if an OSHA inspector shows up. The point of contact should be a safety department employee who can readily answer the inspector’s questions about the company’s safety programs, training records, and operations. Make sure everyone in the company knows who should be contacted when an OSHA inspector arrives. Also, identify a private room, away from your operations, where the opening conference, closing conference, and employee interviews will take place.

2. Be prepared to mirror the OSHA inspector: Have your own inspection tools (a camera and notebook, at a minimum) ready at hand too, because your designated point of contact should document the areas and equipment inspected and photographed by the inspector, comments made by the inspector, and the names of employees interviewed. Want to know what else OSHA inspectors look for? Check out “Inspections Procedures” in Chapter 3 of the OSHA Field Operations Manual used by investigators.

3. Keep your 300, 300A and 301 logs and forms up to date and in good order: At most inspections, OSHA inspectors want to review OSHA 300, 300A and 301 logs and forms. OSHA regulations require employers to provide copies of their 300 log and 300A summaries (for the last 3-5 years) within 4 business hours. OSHA inspectors don’t always enforce that deadline, but they have the right to do so. So you need to be ready. Inspectors also often ask to see Hazard Communication program documents, training records, and required OSHA postings.

4. Know why OSHA might show up: Knowing what may prompt OSHA to show up in the first place may reduce the element of surprise. According to OSHA, imminent danger situations, injuries requiring hospitalization, worker complaints (even bogus ones) and industries deemed by OSHA to involve high hazards are at the top of its list. For more details, click here. Or learn about OSHA’s most frequently cited violations.

5. Know your rights: While each situation warrants careful consideration and advice, be aware of the following:

  • Although it is generally a good idea to cooperate with OSHA, you don’t necessarily have to let OSHA in right away and can insist on a search warrant.
  • You can object to inspections that aren’t reasonable (such as those that aren’t limited to the area of the accident or which would be overly disruptive to operations).
  • You also have the right to be represented during an OSHA inspection. So, if your designated point of contact (see tip no. 1) is offsite when OSHA comes knocking, you can request that OSHA return later or wait a reasonable amount of time until your contact is available.
  • You have the right to have a representative (including counsel) present during interviews of management (but not non-management) employees.

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