How to prepare for an OSHA inspection

Are You Prepared for an OSHA Inspection?

OSHA continues to step-up its enforcement efforts and as an employer, you need to be ready.  Don’t be left scrambling when OSHA comes knocking on your door.

In 1970 congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  OSHA’s purpose is to assist employees and employers to reduce workplace hazards. They identify and outline job safety and health standards and are the governing body that enforces those policies.  OSHA assists with reducing workplace injuries through enforcement, assistance, and cooperation.

What triggers an OSHA inspection?

  • OSHA receives a complaint that appears credible
  • An on-site injury requiring hospitalization or injury resulting in death is reported
  • Your company is categorized within an OSHA “enforcement industry.” (An industry that typically bears higher than normal workplace hazards)

What does OSHA inspect?

  • Complaint inspections are restricted to target areas related to the issue(s) cited in the complaint
  • Inspections from a reported injury or death will require employers to provide OSHA unrestricted access to the accident site.  Also, written company safety programs and policies must be made available upon request
  • Enforcement industry inspections are typically wall-to-wall inspections.  Inspectors will need access to the full contents of the facility and all written programs and policies

How does my DART rating trigger an inspection?

  • An enforcement industry inspection is based off a company’s DART rating (Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred.  Ratings are established by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Companies are divided into two categories, primary and secondary inspection lists
  • Companies on the primary list will automatically receive a visit from OSHA
  • Companies on the secondary list may receive a visit if all primary worksites have been examined

The best policy is to be prepared!

Preparing for an OSHA inspection

It can appear daunting when an OSHA inspector appears at your door.  Start off on the right foot by having a point person greet the inspector at the entrance.

  • Ask to see identification and credentials. You have the right to ask before giving access to your facility
  • The inspector begins the Opening Conference by stating why the worksite has been selected for examination and describing the scope of visit, walk-around procedures, what level of employee representation is required or whether interviews are needed
  • If the inspection was triggered by a complaint, OSHA is not required to provide the name of the complainant, but will provide the nature of the complaint
  • They will ask for basic information like headcount and hours of operation
  • Inspectors need to see OSHA logs and 300 Summary forms from the current year and three prior calendar years
  • They will need to tour the facility or investigation site
  • They may ask to see your policies, training materials and training records
  • Inspectors are permitted to take photographs of the inspection area or any area they see may be in violation of OSHA standards
  • Inspectors are permitted to interview employees confidentially as part of their examination.  Make sure employees are aware no retaliation will take place for their compliance and they should feel comfortable answering questions
  • The inspection ends during the Closing Conference wherein examiners provide their inspection report.  This identifies areas that may be in potential violation
  • If citations are levied, the company will receive a Citation Notice by mail.  It itemizes a list of violations along with any monetary penalties.  The citation will provide a date by which the violation must be abated

Cooperation is imperative, but take steps to avoid unnecessary pitfalls

The purpose of any OSHA inspection is to review facilities considered high risk, or examine target areas related to a specific complaint or injury site.

  • Keep OSHA logs and 300 Summary forms up to date.  This reduces risk of appearing out-of-compliance with OSHA standards
  • If not required, don’t give inspectors an “open door” tour.  Limit inspection only to areas identified on the inspection list (e.g. an area related to a complaint or injury)
  • Always have a company representative escort OSHA throughout the tour of the facility
  • Don’t attempt to hide anything from inspectors, however, taking the most direct route to the inspection site is the best practice
  • Adhere to the specified timeframes to notify OSHA when a serious injury or death occurs.  Hiding an incident from OSHA only adds to your total fines and fees associated with legal action
  • Separate training records by topic (e.g. Lockout Tagout, Forklift Certification, Bloodborne Pathogens, Fire Extinguisher Training).  Storing them individually limits contact by the inspector to only the records required for an examination
  • If OSHA takes photographs, you should too.  They will not provide copies, so it’s best to capture your own imagery
  • Keep up with employee training.  If an employee is interviewed by an OSHA inspector, you will want to demonstrate they are aware of and understand safety policies and practices

If an inspector appears unexpectedly, the best policy is to invite them in.  Forcing them to go through the process of obtaining a subpoena sets a negative tone.  If you are following guidelines properly you should have nothing to hide.

I received a citation, now what?

If you receive a Citation Notification by mail you have three options:

  1. Acceptance:  Accept the citation and pay the penalty
  2. Request an Informal Conference:  You may request an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director to discuss the citations received.  Choose this option specifically if you don’t feel the citations imposed were justified or you want to ask to reduce the severity of the item cited or reduce the amount of the monetary penalties.  The Area Director may decide to drop or modify the citation.  Usually it is not necessary to involve an attorney.
  3. File a Formal Notice to Contest:  Take this step if you’ve met with the Area Director and were not able to resolve the citation to your satisfaction.  Your case will be reviewed formally by internal legal counselors at OSHA

Come prepared to contest your case with OSHA

  • Leave emotion at home and just state the facts of the case
  • Come prepared with documentation to back up your claims
  • If the situation cannot be resolved in the informal conference, it may be necessary to get your corporate attorney involved

At Corporate Group, our member companies focus and take pride in promoting the highest level of safety for our employees.  Our leadership teams are well versed in OSHA policies and procedures, are up to date on employee training, and have all their records in order.  So when OSHA arrives we are prepared and confident for their inspection.

For more information on OSHA visit