What to Expect During an OSHA Inspection
by David Tullis, on Apr 16, 2021 5:18:00 PM
For busy warehouse managers like you, safety is a top priority. Shifts in OSHA guidance can mean the difference between maintaining compliance and time-consuming audits. Shifting oversight from the Biden administration marks a major change for companies to navigate. Here’s what you need to know about OSHA Inspections.
While many headlines about this change in OSHA guidance have spread online, there have been no major changes to existing OSHA rules yet. The directives give OSHA increased focus on stopping the spread of the coronavirus. They also direct the agency to police employers whose violations put the most employees at risk.
However, Biden has made clear of plans to restore Obama-era reforms to the OSHA standards, as well as increasing the number of investigators and modernizing incident reporting electronically. It’s understandable to be nervous around stories of increased OSHA oversight. If your company ever is inspected, here’s what you can expect from your OSHA inspection.
Before the OSHA Inspection
OSHA inspectors will review your worksite’s inspection history, processes, and operations before they arrive for an inspection. Any previous complaints or incidents are included in this review. While rare, OSHA may give you advance notice of your inspection. In most cases, it’s illegal for OSHA employees to alert companies ahead of their review, but there are four specific exceptions:
- In cases of imminent danger, in hopes that management will fix work conditions immediately.
- When the inspection will take place after regular business hours or when special preparation is needed.
- If it’s not likely that management or worker representatives will be present unless advance notice is given.
- If there are other specific circumstances that lead OSHA’s Area Director to determine advance notice would lead to a more complete inspection (such as in fatality cases.)
In short, don’t count on receiving advance notice - these are reserved for the most severe cases.
OSHA Inspection Opening Conference
On arrival, your OSHA compliance officer will share credentials to prove they really are OSHA representatives. They will then hold an opening conference to explain why you are being inspected, what will happen, and procedures for walkaround and employee interviews. Your company will select a representative to join the OSHA compliance officer during the inspection. Your employees also have the right for an authorized representative to be present during the walkaround. Your OSHA compliance officer will also interview a number of employees privately during the inspection itself.
Walkaround Portion of OSHA Inspection
Following the opening conference, the OSHA compliance officer and accompanying representatives will walk through specific parts of your workplace that the inspection covers. They will check for hazards that could put employees at risk of illness or injury. The compliance officer will point out issues that can be corrected immediately. While your company will still be cited for these violations as required by law, it’s in your best interest to fix these issues quickly to show your good faith efforts to improve conditions.
OSHA compliance officers do their best to limit interruptions to work during their inspection. They will need to review your workplace’s injury and illness records, training records, and OSHA posters, so keep these available. They also keep any trade secrets they may observe confidential.
OSHA Closing Conference
After the walkaround, the OSHA compliance officer will explain their findings to the employer and employee representative. They may also discuss follow-up actions, such as an informal OSHA conference or the employer contesting citations and penalties. The compliance officer will also discuss employee rights with the representatives.
Receiving OSHA Inspection Results
If there are OSHA standards violations or serious hazards and risks found during inspection, OSHA may issue citations and fines to your company. OSHA citations describe the violation, proposed penalties, and provide a deadline for fixing the hazards. Citations and penalties must be issued by OSHA within six months of the violation. OSHA policy aims to reduce penalties for smaller employers as well as companies who make good faith efforts to comply and create a safer work culture. However, OSHA does not offer good faith adjustments for violations that were committed willfully.
What to Expect After Your OSHA Inspection
If your company received citations or penalties, you have an opportunity to hold an informal conference with the local OSHA Area Director. This provides an opportunity to discuss the citations, hazards, penalties, and solutions. You may find that OSHA will work with you to solve the issues and provide abatement for penalties.
You do have the right to contest alleged violations or penalties by sending a written notice to the OSHA Area Director within 15 working days after receiving citations. If you do not challenge a citation, penalty, or abatement date, it becomes a final order. If OSHA witnesses hazards or issues during the inspections, you are more likely to be re-inspected as well.
If you are concerned about OSHA inspections, now is the perfect time to make sure your workplace safety plan is up to speed. That means everything from warehouse racking and forklift maintenance to employee PPE and non-slip flooring are in place. If you need assistance keeping your workplace safer, Southern States Toyotalift is here to help. You can contact us online, call us by phone at (800) 226-2345, or visit our material handling experts at one of our nine locations: