Ronald Pitcher Ronald Pitcher

Preparing for an OSHA Inspection

January 31, 2022

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government agency that monitors and enforces compliance with workplace-safety laws. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) have the authority to inspect the facilities of any employer subject to OSHA’s regulations. Employers have a right to request a warrant for inspection. Although it may buy time, requesting a warrant likely will broaden the inspection and create a negative impression. 

When preparing your metal forming company for an inspection, start by designating principal contacts for managing the inspection.  Document the list of designated employees and train them on all aspects of an OSHA audit. Ensure sufficient personnel are trained in case of a scheduling conflict. Then decide where in your facility the CSHO will work, and where he will conduct employee interviews.  Collect all updated safety documentation that you plan to present to the CSHO. 

Assemble an inspection kit, which should include:

  • A camera for video and photography recording
  • Required personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Labels or stamps to mark information that should be tagged as “confidential” or “trade secret”
  • Basic facility information (type of work performed, number of employees, names of management personnel and a list of contact information)
  • Contact information for the local OSHA office
  • Testing equipment; be sure to check calibrations and expirations on equipment regularly.

When the CSHO arrives onsite, be polite and ask to see their credentials (if they do not offer to show them). Confirm the credentials or call your local OSHA office with any questions. Place the CSHO in the predetermined conference room or office and notify the designated company employees asked to participate in the inspection.

During the Opening Conference

… determine the purpose of the inspection. If there has been a complaint, ask for a copy of the complaint. OSHA will protect the identity of any employee who has submitted a complaint. Then define the scope of the inspection and limit consent only to the areas cited in the complaint. Configure a route for the walk-around and keep the walk-around as limited as possible.

Identify areas of the workplace or documents that might contain proprietary information and confirm with the CSHO that all proprietary information will remain confidential. Discuss the process for conducting employee interviews and producing documents. If possible, schedule employee interviews to ensure shift coverage.

Ask the CSHO to submit all requests for company information and documents in writing and have your company’s legal counsel review these requests.

During the Walk-around

… ensure all employees have the required PPE and are following proper safety protocols. Keep the route as limited as possible, while understanding the plain view doctrine. That is, a CSHO can investigate any hazard observed while walking through the premise. 

Take detailed notes to document the CSHO’s findings, and yours. Be sure to take your own pictures, samples and measurements, duplicating any taken by the CSHO. Your company can request that samples and monitoring occur at a time when the company can conduct its own sampling and monitoring. 

If you or the CSHO identifies any “quick-fix” items, remedy them immediately. The CSHO will view these actions as proof of your company’s willingness to comply with safety and health laws. 

Do not interfere with employee interviews. The CSHO has the right to conduct employee interviews in private. Employee interviews may involve labor representatives, rank-and-file employees and management personnel. For any interview of a company decisionmaker, consider having a representative present, as any statements made are considered binding admissions on the employer.

During the Closing Conference

.. request copies of all OSHA samples and monitoring reports from the CSHO. Ask him to provide acknowledgment of receipt for all documentation provided during the inspection. Also, provide the CSHO with the name, title and contact information of the people to whom all OSHA correspondence should be directed.

Document any alleged violations that already have been corrected. If directed by legal counsel, provide additional information and documentation relevant and supportive of the company’s position, as well as any information showing abatement of any alleged violations.

Do not make any impulsive commitments, such as corrective actions or dates. Discuss possible violations. Understand that only the OSHA area director can issue citations, and this process can take up to six months following the inspection. The area director may rely on a CSHO’s recommendations to issue a citation, but CSHOs may be hesitant to address whether they will recommend a citation during their visit to your facility.

After the Closing Conference

Try to obtain all sample and monitoring reports from OSHA and provide to your company’s legal counsel copies of all documents provided to OSHA, including all the notes, photographs, videos, etc. taken during the inspection. Reference an updated copy of OSHA’s Field Operations Manual and review it to determine whether there were any issues during the audit. You can use any information found as supporting documentation to negotiate a settlement.

OSHA-inspection-violation-penaltiesIf your facility receives citations from OSHA, you should:

  • Post the citation in all areas in which the violation occurred. Citations must be posted for three working days or until the violation has been corrected, whichever is later.
  • Immediately notify your legal counsel about the citation and send them a copy of the citation.
  • Start the abatement process. Review all areas noted by the CSHO and all violations from previous inspections and correct any issues found within the timeframe stated on the citation. Document the corrections to show that you completed the abatement process.
  • Be sure to correct all hazards, or you may be assigned larger penalties during subsequent inspections.
  • Make note of all deadlines to avoid creating a short turnaround time for completing abatement measures.

Appeals Process

Once you receive a citation, you can schedule an informal conference with the OSHA area director to discuss the violations and try to reach a settlement agreement. If unable to reach an agreement, you can either pay the citation or file a Notice of Contest to pursue a formal hearing.

During the informal conference with the OSHA area director, you can discuss citations, penalties, abatement dates or any other information pertinent to the inspection. Though they are informal, properly prepare for the conference. Employers can present defenses to citations, and OSHA may agree to withdraw some citations or reduce the penalty.

Tips for productive informal conferences:

  • Schedule the conference promptly; it must be held before the end of the 15-day period for filing the Notice to Contest. Note: There may be some differences in timelines and procedures between federal OSHA offices and agencies run by OSHA-approved state programs.
  • Discuss citations and remedial measures taken. If you want OSHA to vacate the citation, be ready to explain why the citation is incorrect or unwarranted.
  • Use supporting documents. Prepare and review your case with your company’s legal counsel and use an evidence-based approach. Be sure that OSHA has objective evidence regarding each alleged violation and explain any mitigating circumstances and showcase your company’s commitment to safety.
  • Keep track of all issues and their status; you want to make sure that every item was resolved.

Remember, OSHA area directors want to reach a settlement. Their main goal is to ensure that you rectify the identified hazards and attain compliance. If you do not reach a settlement conference, then decide whether you should pay the fine or contest it. There may be a reduction in the penalty if the inspection went well; you may have to pay the penalty early to pay the discounted amount.

If you decide to contest the citation, be sure to review timelines and dates for submitting requests and documentation. When filing a Notice of Contest, the file transfers over to the Department of Labor, to the Office of the Solicitor to begin litigation. A formal hearing will be scheduled and occur in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Formal hearings can be appealed in federal court. MF

Industry-Related Terms: Case, Forming, Run
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Pitcher Insurance Agency, Inc.

Technologies: Safety


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