The Three Phases of an OSHA Safety Inspection
While there are certainly some organizational indicators that make it more likely to receive an OSHA safety inspection, there is no surefire way to know whether you will be on the receiving end of an inspection by OSHA or not. This is why it is important to always be prepared in the event that an OSHA inspector shows up at your door. In order to do so, it is essential to know what to expect during an inspection. There are many people who may not even know the structure of an OSHA safety inspection, which can be quintessential in preparation. This blog post will cover the three different phases of an inspection by OSHA and what each entail.
Phase One: The Opening Conference
If you have been selected for inspection, an OSHA safety inspector will arrive (unscheduled) at your workplace during business hours. There are special circumstances in which the inspection may be scheduled for a later time, but in most situations, the inspection will begin to take place shortly after the inspector’s arrival. Once you invite the inspector into your workplace, the first phase of the inspection, called the opening conference, will begin. Be sure to gather any appropriate personnel, such as safety committee members, that you should be present for this meeting. During this time, the inspector will layout an overview for how the process will continue. They will likely talk about items for review that they will need from you. This includes:
- All written programs in use
- All training records
- Safety committee logs
- Three years worth (including the current year’s) of OSHA 300 logs (injury and illness reports)
During this time, it is recommended that you account for any proprietary concerns your company may have regarding the inspection process, any safety issues that you are currently working towards correcting and any other questions that you may have about the process.
Phase Two: Walk Around
Once all expectations have been laid out, the second phase of the inspection will begin in which the inspector will walk around your workplace to observe its physical condition as well as the processes taking place within. It is your choice whether you wish to accompany them or not during this process. We recommend that you do so that you can note any areas that particular attention is paid to as well as provide clarifications and answers to questions as they arise. It is likely that inspectors will take photographs during this time. You can refuse picture taking, but we do not believe that this is a necessary step to take. Simply take your own photographs of anything that they photograph, as you will not have access to their pictures later on. The inspector will also typically use time during this phase to interview employees about safety measures involved with processes that they perform. These can either be conducted by the inspector walking up to employees as they see them during the walk around, or they can schedule out a specific time in which they can speak to several employees. You must not be present during these interviews, as the inspector wants employees to feel that they can speak freely.
Phase Three: Closing Conference
Once the inspector has gathered all of the information that they need, the inspection will move into its closing conference. This time is meant to tie up any loose ends of the safety inspection. During this time, inspectors will provide you with a summarized, high-level view of their findings. If they have any remaining questions they were not able to find the answers to upon the walk around, they will ask these now. If you feel like anything was not considered or thoroughly covered, you should use this time to provide further explanation that you deem necessary. During this time, your inspector will probably not be able to tell you all citations incurred. While they may be able to mention any obvious citations, more abstract citations will likely require them to go back and do further research. You will receive a full list of any citations and details regarding next actions to take at a later date.
By being aware of the structure of the safety inspection process, you should be able to better prepare for how to handle one. For more information about the OSHA safety inspection process, including reasons for inspection, elimination of hazards inspectors will likely look for and further advice for how to handle the process and to react to certain instances, download our free guide “Preparing for an OSHA Safety Inspection.”