Let’s face it; no one wants OSHA to show up at your doorstep or jobsite. Fines and penalties (including shutting down a job) can cripple a company financially and ruin its reputation publically. If facing an OSHA inspection has you worried, I suggest you use the following guidelines to reduce the worry and give your company every opportunity to pass with flying colors.
An OSHA Compliance Officer may stop the first person they see and request to enter the job site. If the request is not made to a supervisor, the employee should contact their supervisor immediately and ask the compliance officer to wait until that person arrives. If they are not on site, inform the compliance officer how long it will take for them to return. Do not engage in small talk about the job while waiting.
The supervisor or company representative must request the Compliance Officer’s credentials. When they are satisfied, ask for the nature of his/her inspection: complaint, focused, target industry, drive-by, etc.
Comply with the officer’s requests to look at the formal safety program, accident reports, and inspection surveys. Do not provide any contract documentswithout approval from the corporate office. No material, other than the OSHA form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, should be given to OSHA without additional permission from the corporate office.
Approve members of the inspection party. Each employer has the right to representation; the Compliance Officer has the right to choose the representative. Disruptive conduct by the employer/employee representatives may be cause for dismissal from the inspection party.
Ensure that the Compliance Officer has the appropriate PPE before being allowed on the job site.
During the Inspection
- Allow the Compliance Officer to lead; he/she will not generally look in every nook and cranny.
- Do not permit unnecessary employees to linger near the inspection party.
- Do not harass, threaten, or otherwise intimidate the Compliance Officer.
- Companies have the right to protect trade secrets and may deny inspection where such are in use.
- Keep a chronological record of where the Compliance Officer goes, how long he/she talks to employees, and whether he/she returns to a location previously inspected.
- When photographs are taken, ask the nature of the suspected violation and record in your journal/log. Take a picture of the same subject.
- If videotaping is done, be cautious of the audio portion and verbally request you not be recorded. Take your own video. Make certain the video camera used by OSHA is turned off to prevent audio recording without permission.
At the completion of the inspection, a closing conference will be held to advise of any alleged violations noted, to determine corrective dates, and answer questions. The Compliance Officer will either hold a general meeting or meet with each individual contractor. If you are GC or CM, a representative should attempt to attend all meetings if held individually for the purpose of recording each contractor’s alleged violations. If the Compliance Officer will not permit this, notify the Safety Coordinator by phone immediately. At no time admit responsibility for a hazard nor offer to correct hazards created by others.
There’s no guarantee that these guidelines will eliminate violations or penalties, but by implementing the steps above, your company will be put in the best position to control the situation and defend potential allegations.
OSHA inspection guidelines are just one of many items that should be incorporated into the formal (meaning written) Corporate Safety and Health Program of all construction organizations.