Inspection Process

If OSHA shows up at your company, know what to expect. The following is a brief outline of how you can be prepared should OSHA arrive at your company.

Preparation –

The best defense in this situation is a good offense. OSHA can enter your place of work; however, you can refuse entry. If you refuse entry, the OSHA Inspector (known as a Compliance Officer) will seek a warrant to inspect, and that may result in a more “detailed” inspection of your facility. The decision is yours, but be prepared either way.

  • Appoint a Company Representative – someone who can be “in charge.” Identify people who can make corrections on the spot, if needed.

  • Have your OSHA records (i.e., OSHA Log 300 and 300A) updated and accessible, postings in order, and safety programs current with documentation to prove safety is being practiced.

  • Have equipment available: camera, measuring tape, paper for note taking, and anything else that can be used in recording the inspection.

  • Consider holding a rehearsal of an inspection. Include the use of and be prepared with cameras or videotaping.

Involve Employees – 

The best way to ensure positive responses is to involve employees in your safety programs.

  • Prepare employees in advance: the Inspector will probably ask them questions (OSHA Inspectors have the right to question employees).

  • The Inspector may stop and question workers, in private, about safety and health conditions and practices in their workplaces. While talking with employees, the Inspector will make every effort to minimize any work interruptions.

Opening Conference –

Usually before conducting the inspection (there are exceptions to this), the Inspector will discuss how the establishment was selected and the likely scope of the inspection. If it is a complaint, ask for a copy of the complaint (the Inspector cannot and will not disclose the complainant’s identity). If an OSHA-funded consultation visit is in progress or whether the facility is pursuing or has received an inspection exemption through the consultation program, let the Inspector know: the inspection may be limited or terminated.

  • Ask the Inspector for their credentials (photo ID with State Emblem, business card), and verify. Be polite and courteous, and let the Inspector know that you are doing this to prevent imposters. Employers should always ask to see the Inspector’s credentials, and should verify them by calling the nearest OSHA office.

NOTE: Inspectors may not collect a penalty at the time of the inspection or promote the sale of  a product or service at any time; anyone who attempts to do so is impersonating a government inspector and the employer should contact the FBI or local law enforcement officials immediately.

  • The Inspector will ask to select an employer and employee representative to accompany the Compliance Officer during the inspection. An employee representative is not required for each inspection. Where there is no authorized employee representative, however, the CO must consult with a reasonable number of employees concerning safety and health matters in the workplace.


Walk Around / Inspection –

The Inspector determines the route and duration of the inspection. An inspection tour may cover part or all of an establishment, even if the inspection resulted from a specific complaint, fatality, or catastrophe.

  • The Inspector observes safety and health conditions and practices; takes photos, videotapes, and instrument readings; examines records; collects air samples; measures noise levels; surveys existing engineering controls; and monitors employee exposure to toxic fumes, gases, and dusts. The Inspector keeps all trade secrets observed confidential.

  • Take notes of areas and equipment examined, employees interviewed. Point out  company safe practices and procedures: be proud of the safety efforts made.

  • Take photos of conditions photographed, and from a different angles or perspectives.

  • The Inspector will point out to the employer any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions observed, and at the same time, discuss possible corrective action if the employer so desires.

  • Some apparent violations detected by the Inspector can be corrected immediately. When the employer corrects them on the spot, the Inspector records such corrections to help in judging the employer’s good faith in compliance. Prompt attention to hazards can save you money: in the end you may still be cited; however, OSHA may reduce the penalties for some types of violations if they are corrected immediately. The goal is a SAFE WORKPLACE.


Exit Conference –

At the conclusion of the inspection, the Inspector conducts an exit conference. The Inspector will provide, review and discuss a copy of the Employer’s Rights and Responsibilities.

  • You will be de-briefed on observed unsafe or unhealthful conditions by the Inspector, and alleged violations / citations will be reviewed (don’t expect to hear about penalties – those are decided later and will be sent with citations).

  • Discussion will include abatement time for correction of hazards, and appeal rights.


After the Inspector Leaves –

OSHA has up to 6-months to issue a citation. Since a lot about the inspection can be forgotten in the time since the inspection and receipt of any citation, be sure to document immediately following the Inspector’s departure.

  • Write a report based on your notes, discussion, photographs, etc. Also note violations the inspector identified.

  • If you disagree with the citation for any reason, ask for an informal conference with the District Manager by filing an appeal (do so in writing using the provided appeal forms).

  • Be prepared to demonstrate what’s been taken care of since the visit and present evidence to prove it: photos, completed work orders.

The best way to be prepared is to have an active, successful program. Prevention of injuries does more than avoiding OSHA inspections, it saves you money too.