OSHA Certified Safety & Health Officer can surprise you with an inspection at any time and in any establishment of your organization. Their inspections can be very stressful, and unexpected. You are rarely given advanced notice of an inspection visit from a CSHO. Therefore, it is so important to be ready and have the people, policies, and procedures in place so you will be safe from penalties and fines.
What to Expect When you are Being Inspected?
The inspection will begin with the opening conference, then the CSHO will do the walk-around inspection before interviewing the employees and the management, concluding with the closing conference.
It is very important to know what happens during each stage of the inspection, what you should prepare as documents, and how to act to decrease your risk of being fined and ensure the inspection runs safely.
It is also important to know what circumstances could make the visit run quicker and what details a CSHO will be focusing on because when an employer knows what inspectors are looking for, he will be able to anticipate and create an efficient strategy for compliance.
1- Before the inspection
- Get your legal counsel notified when a CSHO is at your facility, his presence in the opening and closing conference would be helpful, as well as at the interviews. They might also help during the inspection tour by notifying employees of details.
- Review your training records to ensure their compliance with OSHA standards.
- Keep a record of all training activities of each employee and make sure all training is updated by implementing a system that allows you to schedule and track training.
- Make sure all employees understand the OSHA standards that apply to your industry including health and safety programs.
- Provide electronic access to all employees to all applicable OSHA standards for reference and make sure to evaluate their applicability frequently.
- Make sure to have an electronic copy of all required workplace illness and injury records (OSHA 300, 301, 300A).
- Make sure to always have an electronic copy of any health and safety program document.
- All health and safety program documents should be accurate, accessible, updated, and implemented according to applicable OSHA standards.
- Be ready to provide any health and safety-related document within 5 working days upon the inspector’s request.
- Hang a poster in your workplace to remind your employees about their rights to:
1- File a safety or health complaint.
2- Participate in the opening and closing conferences.
3- Access inspection records.
4- Be protected from discrimination for exercising these rights.
- Have a safety committee that will be responsible for evaluating workplace health and safety programs, auditing potential hazards, reviewing incidents, providing recommendations, and implementing corrective actions.
- Get all documents related to the safety committee work (policies, membership rosters, meeting agendas and minutes, corrective actions, etc.) ready to be presented when required.
- Put together an inspection team and indicate one member to be present during the inspection and attend the opening and closing conferences. They should perform a management walkthrough during the inspection, be present with the CHSO in the walk around, provide requested documents, collect workplace sampling data, collect media of workplace conditions, prepare employees for interviews, and attend with them.
- Designate an inspection team leader, who will be the primary point of contact and coordinate the company participation in the inspection.
- Always have a secondary representative who will be the assistant of the team leader to attend the inspection in case of the absence of the leader.
- Make sure all members of the team are well trained in applicable OSHA standards, workplace health, and safety policies, and familiar with OSHA’s field inspection procedures.
- Choose a meeting location for the opening and closing conferences and a space for the CSHO to work.
2- The Opening Conference
The first step of the inspection is a meeting conducted by the inspector with representatives of management and employees to explain the purpose of the inspection. If any representative objects to attending the opening conference the inspector will meet him separately.
- Ask for the inspector’s credentials politely before letting him enter your facility, you have the right to inspect such credentials.
- Provide the accompanying team with all safety measures to be taken and PPE and discuss any site-specific safety issues that may be encountered while entering the facility.
- During the opening conference, managers should make sure all work areas are clean and well organized, all safety equipment is in place and functioning, all employees are wearing PPE when required, working safely and respecting safety standards, and notified of OSHA’s presence.
- Introduce the inspector to the inspection team and explain the role of each member.
- During the opening conference, the objective of the inspection should be determined in addition to the areas that it will include, what equipment will be evaluated, and which employees will be interviewed.
- Establish a procedure to provide the documents requested by the CSHO and make copies of them for reference.
- Do not volunteer information.
- If an inspected area is designated as a high hazard, make sure all equipment that will be inspected has lockout and tag-out procedures.
- Schedule employees interviews as requested by the CSHO.
- Take notes of all information provided in the opening conference and keep a copy for further reference.
- If the inspection will take several working days, arrange daily summary meetings with the inspection team to address the concerns of the inspector. Provide information about the inspector’s concerns to demonstrate the employee’s compliance, schedule the next day’s activities and interviews, learn what sampling OSHA wants to do, and prepare for sampling.
3- The Inspection Tour
- Avoid non-routine or high hazard tasks during the walk-around inspection to avoid any unwanted situation.
- Make sure inspection team members always accompany the inspector.
- Provide the inspector with a visitor badge, this will help employees identify him and be aware of his presence in the facility.
- Do not allow the CSHO to enter areas that are not specified in the OSHA administrative warrant. But pay attention, restricted areas might invite the CSHO to have additional warrant authorization to expand his scope of the inspection.
- Make sure the inspector knows when to wear PPE in your facility.
- Make sure not to leave information in plain sight, for example, erase notes on the whiteboard from the last meeting.
- Make sure the CSHO is aware of confidential employee-related information and documents. The inspector must label them confidential and collect them separately from other documents.
- You should know that the inspector will be collecting photos, videos, and measurements of inspected areas, and performing environmental monitoring.
- Keep a record of the inspector’s activities during the walk-around inspection.
- When the inspector collects industrial hygiene data, have an expert or a third party duplicate the measurements, and do not hesitate to ask questions about the tests when you don’t understand.
- If any violation is noticed during the inspection act fast and document corrective actions to demonstrate good efforts that may reduce fines or penalties.
4- Employee and Management Interviews
- Always make sure the inspector is interviewing the right employees. If the CSHO mistakenly speaks to uninvolved employees, it will be a waste of time and might affect the accuracy of the information.
- Make sure employees are well prepared for the interviews, by conducting updated safety training that includes areas or topics an inspector might discuss.
- All employees should be aware of their interview rights: to have a supervisor present with them, not to be recorded (audio or video), not to write or sign their own statement, or the notes of the CSHO, to have a copy of the interview statement, to take a look on any document subject of the questions, to take a break at any time for any reason.
- Encourage your employees to answer with the truth and always the truth, because false statements result in additional violations and penalties.
- Advise employees to have short and concise answers, stick to the facts, do not guess, instead you can honestly say that you do not know, be positive and confident.
- Have a voluntary debriefing with interviewed employees and keep a record of the results.
- During inspector’s interviews with the management, make sure a company’s representative is always present, and if the interview is about an incident or an injury, have your legal counsel present too.
5- Closing Conference
Following the walk-around inspection, the inspector must host a closing conference, it can be made for all the team at once or individually upon the management’s request. In that case, OSHA will hold the employees’ conference first for a chance to collect more employee input. In this conference, the CSHO will discuss the violations and give ways to correct them, and will talk about fines and penalties.
Another closing conference might be held if the results of sampling and industrial hygiene weren’t available at first.
- Do not hesitate to ask any questions about the inspection, what violations have been spotted whether serious or not … he might not answer all your questions depending on his authorization.
- Keep copies of all information collected during the inspection, it will be useful to determine future violations that may occur.
- Take notes during the conference.
- Try not to argue with the inspector about violations and don’t admit to committing the violations.
- Try to provide additional information if needed to correct any error which might form the basis of a proposed citation.
- If you have been given a citation, it should be posted in the inspected workplace for 3 days at least or until the violation is adjusted. Posting the citation is crucial or you will be subject to another violation. Also, keep a record of the citation.
Now that you have learned about the OSHA Inspection, learn about the top benefits of ISO 14001.