ALP: What should I do if an OSHA Compliance Officer asks to inspect my facility and what are the safety issues about which I should be most concerned?

March 2007

The most effective way to handle an OSHA inspection is to be prepared and have a response plan in place before the inspection occurs.  First, you should ask the OSHA Compliance Officer the reason for the visit.  If the reason is a valid one (i.e., an employee complaint or accident at the facility), it is generally advisable to permit the inspection because OSHA has a relatively broad legal right to enter the premises of private employers when it has reason to believe that a safety violation exists.  Under certain circumstances, it may be advisable to request that OSHA obtain a warrant to enter the premises.  You should consult with legal counsel before demanding that OSHA obtain a warrant.

Prior to inspection activity, you should try to reach an agreement with the Compliance Officer limiting the nature and scope of the inspection to the specific area where OSHA believes a hazard to exist.  During the inspection, a qualified managerial employee should accompany the Compliance Officer and take notes and photographs of the inspection activity.  OSHA has a right to conduct private interviews of non-supervisory employees. The employer, however, has a right to have a representative involved in any interview of a supervisor or manager.  You should consult with legal counsel prior to permitting interviews of supervisory or management employees.

The standards most frequently cited by OSHA in the manufacturing context are those relating to hazard communication (labeling, maintaining MSDS sheets, and communicating the dangers of harmful chemicals and substances), lockout / tagout (preventing the unexpected energization of machines during maintenance), and recordkeeping (failing to properly maintain the OSHA 300 log and document recordable injuries).