Taking the Angst Out of an OSHA Inspection

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An unannounced OSHA inspection generates stress even for an entity that strives to provide its staff with a safe workplace. However, most of the trepidation from such a visit can be eliminated by preparation, for example, by…

  • Being in compliance with all you do
  • Keeping the necessary documents in order
  • Establishing an inspection team
  • Knowing what to expect from the inspector
  • Knowing your own rights

Documents

Keep all documentation updated, easily accessible, and ready for viewing, but provide only what is specifically requested. Items an OSHA representative typically requests include:

  • Hazard Communication Program
  • Hazardous Chemical Log and related SDS (Safety Data Sheets)
  • Blood-borne Pathogen Prevention Program
  • Emergency Action Plans (fire and other)
  • Lock-out/Tag-out Protocols
  • OSHA 300 Log (for the last five years)
  • Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (and all supporting documents)
  • Certain related protocols – e.g. access provisions to medical records, posting requirements, etc.
  • Respiratory Protection Plan (if needed – if not, documentation of the process that yielded that conclusion)
  • Hearing Conservation Plan (as above)
  • Confined Space Protocols (as above)
  • Training logs for all required trainings

Inspection Team:

Determine who should be on your inspection team. Most critical is someone completely knowledgeable regarding your safety and health policy; your protocol should require that any tour be conducted with this person present. Management representation is also important (these two requirements could be met by a single individual). There also should be someone whose sole duties during the visit will be to thoroughly record all of the inspector’s comments, duplicate, and possibly supplement any photos taken by the inspector. One person should control all document access – it can be one of the above or someone else; if someone else, this person does not need to accompany the inspection.

Categories of inspection:

The visit may be non-programmed or programmed. The latter are routine, usually based on industry classifications. The former are more focused – usually arising from a complaint by an employee or ex-employee, a catastrophe or fatality, or allegations of imminent danger. A non-programmed inspection may (but not necessarily) be limited to the scope of the complaint or precipitating incident.

Inspector’s rights:

The inspector can review the last five years’ OSHA 300 logs, any written programs you have including related training material and logs, and any of the other listed items. He or she can also have you make copies of any or all of those documents for review at a later time. The inspector has the authority to inspect any visible part of the facility (unless limited by the documents generated by the allegation, incident, or complaint), He or she can interview any of your staff without management’s presence (but the interviewee may have another non-management person present).

Your rights:

The inspector should provide identification and explain the purpose and scope of the inspection upon arrival. Your protocol should be to have the inspector wait in a controlled location until you gather your inspection team. If a critical member is unavailable you may request a rescheduling so the person can be present; if the inspector is uncooperative you can require an administrative warrant (which will delay but not prevent the inspection). You should request an opening conference so the inspection team can be introduced to the inspector, so the team can learn the reason, scope, and length of the inspection, and so you can explain your documentary procedures. You have the right to accompany and document the inspector’s entire inspection (except for interviews) and can require a closing interview to identify and correct any possible errors or misunderstandings and to learn of any citations and how they will be characterized. Do not make any commitment regarding abatement of any condition.

The best preparation for a potential OSHA inspection is compliance – that necessitates understanding and applying the above and doing all you reasonably can to keep your staff safe. Please also see FAQs about OSHA inspections.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.

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