How to Survive an OSHA Inspection

Published 26 June 2020 by Loren & Kean Law

Loren & Kean Law is pleased to share the below article written by Kathleen Clair of Health & Safety Consulting Services, LLC with our clients. With OSHA enforcement and fines becoming more prevalent in the construction industry we believe that this is invaluable information for our clients and therefore will share information produced by OSHA experts and consultants through this newsletter.

How to Survive an OSHA Inspection
Kathleen Clair, CSP, MS, SMS

No company wants OSHA to show up at their jobsite. But when they do, you better be ready! OSHA typically arrives unannounced, so to the best way to avoid an extensive inspection and costly citations is to always BE PREPARED. Make sure your safety program is up to date, employees are trained and wearing all required PPE, and your documentation is in good order.

So, why is OSHA knocking on your door?
There are several reasons why OSHA may visit your jobsite. They include:

  • An employee has filed a complaint with OSHA.
  • A fatality was reported.
  • A hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye was reported.
  • A referral was received from a government agency, media or other source.
  • A follow-up inspection to ensure previously identified citations have been corrected.
  • The facility is a part of a targeted industry or part of a regional emphasis program campaign.
  • A “Programmed Inspection” due to random selection.

What to Expect
The inspector will show their credentials and explain why they are there. Companies have the right to refuse an OSHA inspector on to the jobsite, but they will likely return with a warrant. In general, it is best to avoid your right of refusal unless there is a very good reason—like having no management representative on site.

The inspection should consist of the follow steps:

  • Opening Conference – The inspector will introduce themselves, show their credentials and explain why they are there.
  • Site Walkthrough – The inspector will walk around the jobsite. They may also conduct some testing or monitoring, and will take photos or videos while on site. The inspector will point out violations during the walk-through.
  • Employee interviews – The inspector can conduct interviews. This could be an individual employee or a group. The employer is not allowed to be present during interviews unless the inspector is speaking to managers.
  • Document Review – Written programs, SDS binders, training records, accident reports, and jobsite and equipment inspection documents may be reviewed by inspector. Ensure they are available and well organized.
  • Closing Conference – The inspector will explain any violations and deadlines when corrective actions are to be made.

What to Expect after the inspection
Citations and fines aren’t official until an area office review takes place. The employer will receive the notice by certified mail within six months. After receiving a citation, the company must respond that all items have been abated or submit a notice of contest to the citations within 15 days. The conference is an opportunity to show corrective actions have been made, possibly resulting in reduced or voided penalties. The citation(s) must be posted at or near the area of alleged violations. Violations are classified as Other-Than-Serious, Serious, Willful, and Repeated. It may be helpful to contact an attorney and/or a safety consulting firm for assistance when dealing with OSHA inspections and citations.

What should you do?
A company representative or management should accompany the inspector during their entire inspection.  If possible, limit the area of inspection to only what is necessary based on the scope of their inspection. The person accompanying the inspector should be courteous and cooperative, ask questions, take notes and photos if possible. This may come in handy to prove that a citation is an isolated incident rather than a facility-wide problem.

The company representative should not volunteer unnecessary information. If possible, fix small violations immediately. Thoroughly explain your facility’s processes. OSHA inspectors are not always knowledgeable across all industries so explaining your company’s process and procedures may be helpful.

Stay on top of housekeeping activities that can cause accidents, like spills or tripping hazards. Make sure there is clear access to emergency equipment like fire extinguishers and eyewash stations. Ensure employees are wearing the correct PPE.

Additional tips
Making sure you are complying with all of OSHA’s requirements at all times is the best way to ensure a successful inspection.

  • Conduct frequent inspections of the workplace and document them. Correct issues as soon as possible.
  • Ensure employees know how to access Safety Data Sheets and keep an up to date list of all chemicals onsite.
  • Ensure employees know how to access all written safety programs including emergency response and hazard communication plans.
  • Make certain training records are onsite or can be available at short notice.
  • Make sure accident and injury reports for the past 3 years are handy and the OSHA 300A log is posted at the jobsite from February to April.
  • Educate your employees on their roles and how they should communicate with the OSHA representative. Have a plan in place PRIOR to an inspection.
  • A documented PPE hazard assessment should be available showing that each task has been evaluated and the necessary PPE is available to workers.

Kathleen Clair is the owner and president of West Palm Beach based Health & Safety Consulting Services, LLC. Ms. Clair has over 25 years of experience in the OSHA compliance with a focus on construction and industrial safety. She is fluent in Spanish, is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and an Authorized OSHA Instructor (10- & 30-hour Construction and Gen. Industry). For more info. about HSCS, LLC visit . Ms. Clair can be reached at or 561.758.9942.

Sources: OSHA