Q&A: Ask Carl – What Should I Expect During an OSHA Inspection?


Below are the basics of what to expect during an OSHA inspection. The information in this article is drawn from the OSHA “OSHA Inspections” Fact Sheet and from The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s The OSHA Inspection: A Step-by-Step Guide. The information has been condensed for you.

Requesting an Inspection

There is probably enough concern about OSHA performing inspections for their own reasons that some companies may not know or simply forget that employers can also request a voluntary OSHA inspection and that these can be very helpful to the employer. See the OSHA website on OSHA Onsite Consultations (osha.gov/consultation) and watch for a future article on this topic here as well.

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The Pre-Inspection Preparation

OSHA inspectors do their homework before they show up at your site for an inspection. This includes researching the inspection history of your worksite, reviewing the operations and processes you use and the standards most likely to apply in your workplace. They even gather up PPE and testing equipment they expect to need at your site.

Advanced Noticed of Inspection (Not Likely)

OSHA rarely gives employers advance notice of an inspection. In fact, in many cases it’s a crime for an OSHA employer to give an employer advance notice of an upcoming OSHA inspection. There are four exceptions to this, in which OSHA will give employers advance notice of an upcoming inspection: In cases of imminent danger, with the hope that management will fix the condition immediately; When the inspection must occur after regular business hours or when special preparations are required; If it’s not likely that management and worker representatives will be on-site during the inspection unless advance notice is given; and If there are other circumstances that cause the OSHA Area Director to think advance notification would lead to a more complete inspection (such as in the event of a fatality investigation)

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Arrival & Presentation of Credentials

When the OSHA compliance officer arrives, he or she will provide credentials, so you’ll know it’s really an OSHA rep.Those credentials include photograph and serial number.

The Opening Conference

Your OSHA inspection will begin with an opening conference. During the opening conference, the OSHA compliance officer will explain why your workplace is being inspected and will explain what will happen during the inspection, including walkaround procedures, employee representation, and employee interviews.

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During the inspection, the employer will select a representative to accompany the OSHA compliance officer during the inspection. An authorized representative of the employees also has the right to go along during the walkaround.

During the inspection itself, the OSHA compliance officer will consult privately with a number of employees, whether the compliance officer is accompanied by an authorized representative of the employees or not.

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The Walk Around

During the walk around, the OSHA compliance officer, the employer representative, and any employee representative (if applicable) will walk through the parts of your workplace covered by the inspection.

During the walk around, the compliance officer will inspect for hazards that could cause injury or illness to employees. In doing so, there may be times the OSHA compliance officer points out hazards that can be corrected immediately. You’ll still get a citation for these (the law requires it), but it’s still in your best interest to address and control the hazard because it is evidence of good faith on your behalf.

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The OSHA compliance officer will make every reasonable effort to minimize work interruptions during the walk around and, if they observe any trade secrets, will keep them confidential.
It’s also worth knowing that during the walk around, the OSHA compliance officer will review your worksite injury and illness records (have them readily available) and your training records and will check to see that the OSHA poster is posted.

Conclusion: What Happens During a Typical OSHA Workplace Inspection

There you have it, the basic steps of an OSHA inspection. We hope this makes the OSHA worksite inspection process easier for you to understand.

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