What to Expect During an OSHA Inspection

If you are like most business owners, the idea of OSHA coming to your workplace is nerve-wracking – you’re not sure what to expect during an OSHA inspection, and you don’t know how they’ll react once they get there or what they’ll find. 

With a minimum fine of $7,000, you’re right to be nervous. However, it’s important to remember that OSHA has a very good track record in protecting employees and being reasonable in their expectations for businesses. 

They’re not out to get you. Ultimately, they are there to help you – and your employees.

Safety and health are major factors contributing to employees’ well-being, which impacts their workmanship. Ensuring occupational safety helps your workers feel valued and sets the tone for the working relationship.

While you might be fully compliant with all the rules and regulations, it’s worth being prepared for what will take place during the inspection.

We have compiled this guide to give you an idea of what to expect during an OSHA inspection.

during an osha inspection

What Can Trigger an OSHA Investigation?

Let’s begin by taking a step back and establishing why your workplace might be of interest for an OSHA inspection.

Remember, there are millions of companies in the U.S. and only so many OSHA personnel – they zone in on the high hazard industries in terms of imminent danger and fatalities. So, a company washing the outer windows of skyscraper buildings is more likely to be subject to an OSHA inspection than a bookkeeping company.

Below are the reasons (other than programmed inspections) that can lead to an OSHA inspection:

How Can I Prepare for a Potential OSHA Inspection?

It’s only under special circumstances such as imminent danger or in the event that certain employers or employees involved need to be present that the company will receive advance notice of inspection.

Here are some easy practices that we can help you with through our training to start you off on the right foot before the OSHA inspection begins:

during an osha inspection

What Will the OSHA Compliance Safety Officer Do?

The first thing that happens during OSHA inspections is that the compliance officer will announce himself by producing his credentials. An opening conference follows this. 

During the opening conference, the OSHA inspector will communicate why they have chosen to conduct inspections and what they will be focusing on. They may be looking for specific hazards or following up on a complaint filed by an employee.

Take note that the OSHA inspector must wait until your safety representative shows up. You can ask them to do so in the office until the safety representative gets there, so they don’t start the inspection without him.

The second part of the opening conference is dedicated to determining who will partake in the OSHA inspection. The compliance officer can choose any employee from the company. 

But, OSHA can’t compel an employee to participate, and you may contact your employees’ union organizers to allocate a union representative to join them for the inspection process. 

Before the official inspections begin with the walkaround, you may present all of the appropriate documentation you have gathered.

What Does an OSHA Inspection Entail?

After certifying the inspector and completing the opening conference, it’s time for the next stage of the OSHA inspection: the walkaround.

The intention of the walkaround through the portions of the workplace is to identify hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness. Only the representatives partake to minimize work interruptions for the other personnel.

Anytime the compliance officer notices a violation, he will cite it. It’s in good faith and your own best interest to promptly correct hazards and any other OSHA citations that are easily fixable. 

Be sure to take a close interest and take your own notes to amend them as soon as possible. It’s not a bad idea to take pictures of everything cited too, for your own reference and use at a later stage. 

The inspector might take photos or video recordings of areas of concern. Note that you may do the same for retrospection. Feel free to raise any questions you might have at any time, but it’s important not to argue or contradict the inspector. You will have the ability to argue your points at a later time.

It might be of concern to you that they might unintentionally be exposed to some trade secrets while the group conduct inspections. You won’t need to worry about this, as you have employers OSHA inspection rights that compel them to keep confidential business information to themselves.

Even if something is not in their jurisdiction, OSHA inspection rights dictate that any hazard in plain sight can be investigated. But, the OSHA inspectors may not conduct any unreasonable searches or make any disruptive inspection requests.

During an OSHA inspection, you can also expect some random employee interviews. The employees may request the presence of management representatives. 

during an osha inspection

What Happens After the OSHA Inspection?

A closing conference is held after the OSHA inspections walkaround to discuss citations and communicate the findings. 

Take note that the closing conference occurs onsite, between one to six weeks after the event, so that the inspector can establish which citations require a fine, which can just be corrected, and provide advice on how to do so.

As the employer, you will receive a letter in the mail with the citations and proposed penalties. You have 15 days to contest these if needed.

How Can I Ensure We Are Safety and Health Compliant?

Our expertise at Insure Compliance bridges the gap between knowing the safety policies and standards and knowing how to implement them.

We have a unique Safety Gap Model that we employ for all our clients, showing the five safety gaps in a business. We follow a specific process to identify these gaps, discuss their symptoms, and provide solutions.

And for your ultimate preparation, we offer a mock OSHA inspection to simulate a real inspection, so you know exactly what to expect when the real thing rolls around. This is followed by a comprehensive report so that businesses can adequately prepare themselves. Then, we assist in implementing the recommended changes.

Key Takeaways

The cliché goes, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. 

Knowing what to expect and preparing for an OSHA inspection can be the difference between a significant fine and a mere slap on the wrist.

As a business owner, we understand you have a lot of responsibilities. One duty as a manager or owner is to minimize any risks to the business. By staying current on safety initiatives and taking care of all safety compliance requirements, you minimize risk to the business.

Insure Compliance has the people and knowledge to help you remain OSHA compliant and avoid penalties. Our services will increase the safety of your employees and effectively keep your insurance rates low.

Contact us today to get your safety up and your rates down.


Please note that every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this guide is accurate. You should note, however, that the information is intended as a guide only, providing an overview of general information available to businesses. This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive source of information and should not be seen to constitute legal, safety or business advice. You should, where necessary, seek your own advice for any issues raised in your affairs.

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