Trick or treat! It’s not a ghost, a witch, a vampire or a werewolf who’s been rapping at your door. It’s something even scarier. It’s the OSHA inspector, and he wants to look around. Here’s what to do. (This guidance also works in Canada.)
How OSHA Inspections Begin
OSHA usually conducts inspections during the regular working hours of your workplace. With some exceptions, OSHA doesn’t notify the companies it inspects in advance. OSHA inspectors usually show up unannounced.
When the inspection begins, the OSHA inspector must present credentials to the owner, owner representative, operator or agent in charge.
TIP : Ask to see the credentials of the OSHA inspector if they’re not presented to you – just as you would ask any stranger who shows up at your facility unannounced. Asking for credentials isn’t just your right; it’s essential for your own security and the security of your workers. But don’t cop an attitude. After all, a person who shows up claiming to be an OSHA inspector is likely to be who he claims to be. Be polite and non-confrontational when asking for credentials. If the visitor refuses to show credentials, take the necessary security precautions as instructed by your company policy guidelines.
Should You Let the Inspector In?
Darn right you should. You can’t refuse to let a bona fide OSHA inspector enter your facility. But you may ask the OSHA inspector to get a warrant to conduct the inspection before entering and refuse entry without a warrant. Exceptions: You can’t refuse entry for lack of a warrant if you or one of your representatives has already given consent to the inspection or if there’s an emergency or urgent reason for the inspector to enter.
TIP: Before exercising this right, remember that the inspector is only human. Making his/her job more difficult just to stall for more time to prepare may cause you more difficulties during your inspection. But if you have a good reason you shouldn’t hesitate to exercise your right to demand that the inspector get a warrant.
If the inspector does get the warrant, you must let her in. It’s also illegal to interfere with the inspector’s conduct of the inspection. But once the inspector is in, you may require her to follow the same policies, procedures and rules as any other employee or visitor. This includes insisting on the wearing of mandatory PPE, the removal of dangling jewelry, etc.
TIP: As part of your training or orientation, tell staff in advance what to expect if an OSHA inspector shows up. Appoint a contact person and instruct her to notify other necessary company officials, escort the inspector directly to a pre-determined area (conference room or office), and remain with the inspector until a company official arrives. Tell the contact person not to take the inspector through any area but the designated area of your facility until you have determined the purpose of the inspection.
My Halloween wish to you all is that these little pointers make your OSHA inspection experience a little less scary.