A visit from an OSHA
inspector can be stressful for employers—so here are some tips from workplace
safety experts to help employers navigate through the process.
employee complaint to OSHA about a safety issue can sometimes result in an
inspection, said Patrick Miller, an attorney with Sherman & Howard in
may also elect to ask the employer to investigate the employee’s complaint
and provide a written response back to the agency, explained Carla Gunnin, an
attorney with Jackson Lewis in Atlanta.
triggers for inspections can be referrals from other agencies, including law
enforcement agencies. Or a company may be examined as part of an enforcement
program that zeroes in on players in high-hazard industries.
employer must notify OSHA about catastrophic events. Fatalities must be
reported within eight hours and will trigger an inspection. An in-patient
hospitalization, amputation or eye loss must be reported within 24 hours and
may also prompt an inspection.
should be courteous to OSHA inspectors and treat them like any other guest,
said John Martin, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Washington, D.C. But
they should also find out the specific reason for the inspection and should
accompany the OSHA officer through the worksite.
the inspection to the specific issue that prompted the site visit. If an OSHA
officer is there specifically to look at electrical cords but tries to do a
wall-to-wall inspection, employers can push back and try to limit the scope,
have the right to refuse to let OSHA enter the worksite, but it’s fairly easy
for an inspector to then get a warrant from a federal judge that grants access,
employer can seek to quash these types of warrants; however, extreme caution
should be used before ever going this route, and a legal counsel who is well
versed in this type of process should be consulted.”
circumstances, employers don’t refuse entry, she said.
have rights they can claim during the inspection process, such as asking the
OSHA officer to wait for a member of management to arrive before entering the
OSHA inspectors will wait up to one or two hours but will want to just move
forward with the inspection if it’s going to take longer, Martin said.
should be noted that for work that is done in plain view, such as a
construction site, OSHA can document violations of the OSH Act without ever
entering the property, Gunnin said.
should carefully document everything the compliance officer is inspecting,
recommends that the employer representative bring a camera on the walkaround. If
the OSHA officer is taking pictures, the employer should take pictures, too, he
said. That way the employer can review everything with counsel after the
employees use personal protective equipment—such as hardhats—on the worksite,
make sure the inspector is also using that equipment, Martin said. “You
don’t want to create the impression that safety rules aren’t enforced.”
added that anything workers say to OSHA officers can be used against the
employer in an administrative proceeding. “Don’t say, ‘I’m sorry, I meant
to fix that.’ ”
compliance officer may also want to review certain documents—some of which must
be provided to OSHA upon request, Miller said. OSHA 300 logs are most commonly
requested, but officers may ask for a laundry list of other items, he added.
“Take a look at those items carefully and push back if the request is too
inspectors may also interview employees. While nonsupervisory employees can be
interviewed in private, employers have the right to have a lawyer or another
manager present when a supervisory employee is interviewed—and they should do
so, Gunnin said.
managers are speaking on behalf of the company, if they admit to a violation,
then by extension, the company is admitting to the violation. Legal counsel can
help ensure that the compliance officer’s questions are clear and that they are
answered appropriately, Miller noted.
Tips for Employers
goes a long way and establishing a good relationship with the compliance
officer from the beginning is a best practice, Miller said.
should designate someone to manage the inspection who can decide whether
outside counsel is needed and can document everything that happens during the
process, Gunnin suggested.
OSHA is expected to be on site for multiple days, the employer should ask that
[the representative] provide a short briefing at the end of each day of what
they are finding and any concerns that have arisen,” she said. “It is
better for the employer to know in current time what the potential issues are
rather than waiting for the inspection to finalize.”
Employee safety in the
workplace or worksite should be the number one goal for any company. Converge HR Solutions offers an HR
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to date and compliant with the most recent rule changes, so you do not have to
worry if OSHA shows up. For more
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