Your Rights and Responsibilities During an OSHA Inspection

Beth Dean 04.01.24
Graphic - Blog 2024-04-02 Rights and Responsibilities During an OSHA Inspection

An OSHA inspection can feel daunting, but understanding the process can empower you to get through it smoothly. This guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to ensure a collaborative and efficient experience for everyone involved.

When might you encounter an OSHA inspector? 

Imagine a concerned employee reports a potential safety hazard. Or a recent accident at your workplace triggers an investigation. These are just some scenarios that could lead to an OSHA visit. The good news is that inspections can be completely random, ensuring everyone adheres to safety standards.

What types of inspections are there

  • In the most urgent case, an imminent danger inspection takes top priority, with the inspector arriving promptly to address any immediate threats. 
  • If a serious accident occurs, like a workplace fatality, an accident inspection follows to investigate the cause and prevent future tragedies.
  • Employee complaints can also trigger an inspection, where the inspector focuses on the specific concerns raised. 
  • Programmed inspections are like surprise quizzes, ensuring everyone is prepared and following the established safety rules.
  • Follow-up inspections wrap up the investigation, checking if previously identified issues have been addressed.

What can you expect if an inspector arrives? 

The inspection begins with an opening conference, where the inspector explains the purpose of their visit, and requests relevant documents. This visit is your chance to ask questions and understand the scope of the inspection.

Next comes the walkaround, where the inspector, accompanied by employer and employee representatives, embarks on a physical tour of the workplace (see the latest updates to this in “What’s New” below). Imagine the inspector as a detective, carefully examining the work environment for any potential hazards. During this phase, the inspector might take notes, photographs, or measurements to document their findings.

Finally, the inspection concludes with a closing conference, where the inspector discusses their observations and potential next steps. This final step could involve recommendations for corrective actions or, if they found violations, the issuance of citations.

As an employer, you have certain rights and responsibilities throughout this process. 

You can request and review the inspector’s credentials, accompany them during the walkaround, and request a copy of the inspection report. However, remember that cooperation and transparency are key to a smooth inspection.

Employees also have a voice. 

Employees can file complaints if they feel unsafe and have the right to be present during the walkaround with a chosen representative. 

What’s New

OSHA just introduced a new rule that may allow additional people to attend the walkaround phase of the inspection. Effective May 31, 2024, the new rule lets workers choose a union representative, even a non-employee, to join safety inspections, even if it’s a non-union workplace. This expands employee rights but could raise concerns for employers. Businesses can still deny entry to these representatives, but doing so might trigger legal challenges. To prepare, companies can review their inspection procedures, train managers, and consider forming safety committees as an alternative.

You can learn more about OSHA inspections on their handy overview. Are you a Nextep client? If so, and your worksite is subject to an OSHA inspection, please get in touch with us for help! We can guide you through your rights and responsibilities and work together to create a safe and healthy work environment.

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