515-223-5119 [email protected]

[2013 | Keywords: Regulatory Compliance, OSHA]

We have had a few clients call recently because OSHA is there visiting, had just stopped by to visit, or will be returning in the next few days to visit when the manager is back in town. Many reasons for the visits were due to a random selection, but some visits were due to an accident that had occurred where one employee was injured and hospitalized for a short time. The employers don’t know how OSHA found out about the accidents and it really doesn’t matter when the inspectors are at your door. What does matter is how you handle the situation?

First and foremost, remain calm. Let them in. Ask them if they would like a cup of coffee and use the facilities. The first thing OSHA inspectors must do is introduce themselves and show you official credentials. You may request a photo I.D.

If the general manager or equivalent is out of town, the employees should tell the OSHA inspector so and ask if they could come back when the manager is in town and can provide them with the information they are requesting. The OSHA inspectors may ask the employees to provide them some written documentation at this time.

The OSHA inspectors will always ask to see the following written documents (at the very least):

  • Injury and illness summary (OSHA 200 and 300 logs) for the past 4 years
  • Specific injury reports for each employee’s injury for the past 4 years
  • A written Hazard Communication Plan (chapter C in your Safety Compliance Manual)
  • Documentation of employee training on Hazard Communication
  • Material Safety Data Sheets for hazardous chemicals that you use or store on site
  • Any documentation related to the reason for their visit such as written programs, training logs, and inspection and maintenance logs of equipment

Often the next thing the OSHA inspectors will do is to find an employee who may have the least experience and ask him/her to show them where MSDSs are kept. This may seem very simple, but do all your full-time, part-time and seasonal employees know where to find the MSDSs? If they are on the computer, do they all know how to look them up? If you contracted with a fax-back company, is the phone number pasted to each telephone? If they are in a file drawer in the office, do they all know which one? Make sure everyone knows.

Then OSHA inspectors will ask to see the physical site related to the reason of their visit, such as where an accident occurred. Keep in mind it’s your right to accompany the OSHA inspectors during their investigation.

DO’s:

  • Do take good notes or bring another employee along to do so
  • Do use your own camera to take the same photos the inspectors take
  • Do ask to be present during any employee interviews
  • Do be polite and treat the inspectors with respect
  • Do stay on your toes, think before you speak – answer their questions – honestly
  • Do take an employee to the side as soon as OSHA shows up and have him go on a quick survey of the facility to make sure guards are all in place and electrical boxes are shut and fire extinguishers are hung up in their places and unobstructed

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t tell the OSHA inspectors to come back when they have a warrant
  • Don’t volunteer information that doesn’t relate to their visit
  • Don’t ask questions about a regulation that doesn’t relate to their visit (they will start asking you questions and may ask to see the physical site, documentation, training logs, etc. that relate)
  • Don’t let the OSHA inspectors be accompanied by an employees who may start pointing out all the other things that need to be fixed at your facility
  • Don’t show the OSHA inspectors any safety inspection checklists that you or RCI or your insurance company have done (if it shows date of completion for a violation and its back to being in violation again, the OSHA inspectors will write you up)
  • Don’t lie, deceive, try cover up, or forge documentation
  • Don’t lead the OSHA inspectors past or through a work area that may be out of compliance with OSHA regulations that day

Before the OSHA inspectors leave, they will often tell you about the violations and when you should expect to receive the certified letter with citations and proposed fines. They should also inform you that you will have 15 days after receiving the certified letter to request an Informal Conference where you can contest the citations. You may also receive several percentages off your fines for being a small business and not threatening the OSHA inspectors. If cited, you may be eligible for a significant reduction in the proposed fine if:

  1. You are a small business, and
  2. You do not contest the citations.

After the inspector leaves – breathe. Call the Association if you haven’t already done so and ask for assistance.

Document every step you take to comply with dates and keep receipts for item or services rendered. Take photos after each job is completed. When everything is done, send a copy of all your documentation, photos and receipts to OSHA. They will keep this on file and will most likely decide not to return for a follow up visit.