What to Do When OSHA Calls

OSHA Visits

OSHA has established a system of inspection priorities to determine who will be visited by a Compliance Officer.

Imminent danger situations are given top priority. An imminent danger is any condition where there is reasonable certainty that a danger exists that can be expected to cause death or serious physical harm.

Investigation of fatalities and accidents is the second priority. A fatality must be reported within eight hours. An in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss must be reported within 24 hours.

Formal employee complaints of alleged violations of standards or of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions is the third priority.

OSHA also has programmed inspections, aimed at specific high hazard industries, occupations, health substances or other industries identified in OSHA’s current inspection procedures.

A Professional Attitude

  • Be cooperative.
  • Do not be sarcastic or argumentative.
  • Do not evade questions or try to hide anything.
  • Answer questions truthfully, but do not speculate.
  • Do not volunteer more information than the question asked.
  • Do not volunteer an admission of guilt.
  • Take notes, measurements, and photos.
  • If possible, fix any violations immediately.

Meeting the Compliance Officer

  • Notify the person who is responsible for the job site: the project manager, superintendent, or owner.
  • Request and write down the Compliance Officer’s name, ID number, and which office they represent.

The Opening Conference

Before inspections begin, employers have the right to an opening conference. The opening conference is the time when employers can:

  • Negotiate to narrow the scope of the inspection.
  • Ask questions about the purpose of and probable cause justifying the inspection.
  • Try to establish ground rules with OSHA about how the inspection may proceed; from the collection of documents (through written requests only), to interviews (scheduled in advance), and physical access to the facility with a management escort.
  • If the inspection was initiated by an employee or former employee complaint, employers also have a right to access a copy of the complaint before consenting to the inspection.
  • After the opening conference, the inspector usually checks the OSHA required Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses and may examine other OSHA required records.

The Walk Through

“OSHA Inspection” – the words tend to make a supervisor/manager a bit anxious! Shake the inspectors hand and introduce yourself, it might be a long day.
  • A manager should escort the Compliance Officer at all times.
  • The Compliance Officer will take notes and photographs as he tours the facility.
  • A company representative may also take pictures of all inspection activities.
  • Employees may be interviewed or be requested to give a written statement.
  • The Compliance Officer will conduct a closing conference, to review any observed violations.
  • He will provide the information that you will need to follow up.

The Closing Conference

The officer is required to have a closing conference, with the company (and employee representatives) at the end of the inspection.

OSHA will discuss “apparent violations” and ways to correct hazards, deadlines, and possible fines. A second closing conference may be held if needed information, such as sampling results, was not initially available.

OSHA Citations

OSHA may choose to issue citations and financial penalties to the employer for violating specific OSHA standards or regulations or for violating the “General Duty Cause” Section 5(A)( I) of the Act.

Employee Responsibility

  • A safe working environment depends not only on the company, but the cooperation of all of its employees.
  • As an employee you need to:
  • Comply with the standards, rules and orders issued by your employer regarding safety.
  • Use safety equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other devices and procedures necessary for protection.
  • Report unsafe and unhealthy working conditions to your supervisor so it can be corrected.
  • Participate in safety meetings and training.

Workplace Safety Tips

Use tools, equipment and machinery properly.
Only operate machines you are trained or certified to use and ensure that they are cleaned and maintained regularly.

Report any unsafe conditions.
Fix any unsafe conditions or workplace hazards as soon as you notice them. If it is dangerous for you to remove the risk, notify a supervisor right away.

Wear all necessary safety gear.
Always wear the necessary safety equipment.

Keep your workplace clear from clutter.

Stay hydrated.
Drink enough water to remain alert and avoid dehydration. Even in the winter, it is essential to stay hydrated with water and warm liquids.

Practice good posture when sitting or lifting.

Take regular breaks.

Be aware of your surroundings.

  • Look for spills or items on the floor that could be tripped over.
  • Note the appropriate safety equipment and gear for each task you are doing.
  • Choose mechanical aids, such as a forklift or wheelbarrow, to help lift items and encourage others to do the same.
  • Keep emergency exits clear and uncluttered so they are accessible in the event of an emergency.
  • Use tools and machines properly to avoid injury and encourage other workers to do the same.
  • Label hazardous areas and materials with appropriate signage.
  • Know where the first aid kits are and which staff members are trained to administer first aid if an injury occurs.
  • Know of the emergency procedures in the event of a fire, flood or earthquake.
  • Only use secure, steady ladders. Never use boxes or anything else as an improvised ladder.
  • Test railings first before using them to make sure they are secured properly.

      Never take shortcuts.
      Even though skipping a step or not wearing safety gear may save you time. Always wear your PPE.

      Remain aware of new safety procedures.
      Though it is the responsibility of the company to make staff aware of new safety procedures, it is your responsibility to make sure that you fully understand the information. If you’re unsure about a new procedure, ask questions.