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SURPRISE! OSHA Inspection!

Published:  March 10, 2014

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), inspectors are authorized to “inspect and investigate during regular working hours, and at other reasonable times, and within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner, any such place of employment and all pertinent conditions, structures, machines, apparatus, devices, equipment, and materials therein, and to question privately any such employer, owner, operator, agent, or employee” without notice.

While it is sometimes impossible to anticipate an OSHA investigation, employers can still be prepared.

  • Employers should have a video or still camera available to use during an OSHA inspection. The investigator’s word will carry a lot of weight. By having a recording or photographs of what the investigator observed you can prepare a defense. Even if a defense isn’t available, the photos or video may be helpful training tools.
  • Employers should appoint a specific leader to be responsible for an OSHA site visit. This will prevent some last minute shuffling when an investigator arrives unannounced. It is also important to ensure that the point person is prepared to show the investigator around the site and to answer any questions the investigator may have. Also, make sure the receptionist knows who the OSHA point person is so the investigator is not kept waiting long.
  • Employers should have a route through the workplace planned to highlight the safety procedures and strengths of the site. While an investigator has broad discretion to choose how to explore the workplace, you want to be prepared to show your best side if you have the opportunity.
  • Employers should decide if they want to press the investigator for a warrant. An OSHA investigator may inspect premises based on consent or a warrant. However, if an employer requires a warrant for the inspection, the inspector will likely be much more thorough and critical.

The best way to handle a surprise OSHA inspection is to be a good boy scout: BE PREPARED.

If you have any questions regarding Occupational Safety and Health laws, please contact any of the attorneys at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.