How does OSHA conduct inspections?

OSHA inspections are conducted by a compliance safety and health officers and are often unannounced visits.

The Basics of an Inspection

The following is a usual procedure of an OSHA inspection:

  1. Preparation and presentation of credentials: Before the inspector conducts the inspection, he or she will research inspection history of the worksite and review the operations and processes in use. Often times, the compliance officers will gather appropriate PPE and testing instruments to measure potential hazards. When the officer arrives to the facility, the inspector will present credentials consisting of a photograph and a serial number.
  2. Opening conference: The opening conference begins with the compliance officer explaining their reason for the inspection and the scope of the inspection, as well walkaround procedures, employee interviews, and employee representation. The employer will need to choose some to accompany the inspector on the tour and select an employee representative. According to OSHA, the compliance officer will consult privately with a reasonable number of employees throughout the duration of the inspection.
  3. Tour: The inspector will then tour the facility alongside the chosen representatives. The tour will go through the areas covered by the inspection and the compliance officer will inspect for hazards that could lead to injury or illness. Injury and illness records will also be reviewed as well as the posting of the official OSHA poster. During the tour, the inspector may point out violations that can be fixed immediately (however the violation will still be cited).
  4. Closing conference: The tour itself will finish with the compliance officer holding a closing conference with the employer and representatives to discuss their findings. In this conference possible courses of action will be discussed as well as consultation services and employee rights.
  5. Violations and penalties: The official results of an OSHA inspection will arrive in the mail, along with citations for violations. Employers are required to post the citations in relevant areas until the problems area, so the employees are aware of any issues.

Additional OSHA Inspection facts:

  • OSHA inspections are carried out by highly-trained industrial hygienists and are usually conducted without prior notice (called OSHA random inspections). OSHA prioritizes its inspection resources for workplaces that are characterized by a high prevalence of hazards that could lead to serious physical harm or even death. Source:
  • There are three parts to an OSHA inspection: the opening conference, the walkaround, and the closing conference. The OSHA inspection process begins with a brief meeting known as the opening conference. The inspector meets with the ranking on-site manager and any other interested parties. Source:
  • During the walkaround, the inspector and the employer’s representative will tour the parts of the facility where potential violations may exist. The inspector will take notes, photos, videos, and measurements, and may interview workers privately. The inspector will also point out any violations that can be corrected immediately. Source:
  • At the closing conference, the inspector will review the findings of the inspection and discuss possible courses of action, such as issuing citations, penalties, or abatement dates. The employer will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide additional information. Source:
  • If OSHA issues citations or penalties, the employer has the right to contest them before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent agency that adjudicates disputes between OSHA and employers. The employer must file a notice of contest within 15 working days of receiving the citations. Source:

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