OSHA inspections: What are employer’s rights during and after?

The dreaded OSHA inspection is a concern for many employers, regardless of how safe the worksite is. With increased fines and expanded jurisdiction, having OSHA knock on your door can be nerve-racking. Knowing your rights as an employer can help you feel more in control of the process.


Why are they here?

You will not get notice of an OSHA inspection and when an inspector arrives you might be wondering why they are there. Below are common reasons for OSHA inspections.

  • Imminent danger: OSHA receives a report alerting them to imminent dangers, such as chemical exposure or safety issues.
  • Fatality or accident: A death or serious accident occurred on the worksite.
  • Complaint: A complaint was filed by an employee.
  • Planned inspections: A lottery selection process for high risk worksites.
  • Follow up: OSHA is returning to check for correction after citing the employer for a violation.

Know your rights during the process

OSHA inspections have three parts; an opening conference, walk around, and closing conference. Depending on the type of investigation and size of the organization, investigations can take hours or weeks.

During the opening conference the investigator should explain why they are there and will likely review any OSHA required logs or safety records. In the walk around portion, the inspector will walk through the worksite and speak with employees. The employer can accompany the inspector on the walk around and take side-by-side evidence, such as photos or material samples. At the closing conference, the inspector will alert you to apparent violations and possibly give you a citation.

Preventing citations

Employee complaints are the most common reason for an OSHA visit. If your employees feel their health or safety is threatened and you are not actively working to correct the problem, they will take matters into their own hands. Don’t give OSHA the chance to give your company a citation; conduct your own version of an inspection regularly and assess areas that are not in compliance.

OSHA citations can be intimidating, but keep in mind, OSHA violations are merely allegations and you have the right to contest them.

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