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Don’t Get Caught in the Trap – Prepare for OSHA Inspections

Although you may not be able to avoid the “knock on the door,” you can avoid being caught in the enforcement trap by making sure you are prepared for safety and health inspections.

It’s critical to do everything possible to be responsive and prepare for all the stages of the inspection process. Your actions will largely determine whether OSHA or a state agency will pursue an enforcement action.

To prepare for an inspection:

  • Conduct a safety audit of your facility to make sure you are in compliance with all applicable regulations.
  • Observe employees at work to make sure they are working safely and following your rules and OSHA requirements.
  • Gather information about what forms are needed for applications, plans, reports, and other documents that must be filed with the agency. Collect applicable laws and regulations.
  • Contact your state agency or OSHA regional office if you have questions about the inspection process. Many state agencies offer preinspection assistance in the form of on-site technical visits, telephone assistance, checklists and forms, or a combination.
  • Become familiar with the substantive and procedural requirements of the agency. These include notice requirements, timing for filing documents, deadlines for appeals, performance standards, design specifications, and qualifications of those filing information with the agency.
  • Review the regulations relating to all the different operations in your facility to make sure you are in compliance with the most recent rules.
  • Select an employee representative who will meet with and accompany the inspector during the inspection, along with management representatives. Make sure these individuals are knowledgeable about every aspect of your operation, your safety program, the layout of your facility, and the inspection process.
  • Educate management. Be sure your management representatives are knowledgeable about every aspect of your operation, your environmental health and safety program, the layout of your facility, and the inspection process.
  • Review previous inspections. Be familiar with previous inspection reports, as well as documentation regarding steps taken to correct previous violations.
  • Identify agency decision makers. Learn about agency organization and leadership. Find out who’s who and who does what. Learn about headquarters and regional office authorities. Identify the roles of division chiefs and directors, and the specific bureaus driving agency policy.
  • Plan ahead for agency meetings. Avoid pointless, premature meetings with high-level agency who officials who always rely on staff reviews anyway.
  • Decide whether you will want legal counsel present during an inspection. Discuss the matter with counsel to make that determination.
  • Avoid litigation. You will often accomplish what you want by showing that you are well organized, that you have clear objectives, that you have secured professional help, and that you are ready, willing, and able to do what is necessary to obtain your objectives and protect your rights.
  • Document meetings and phone contacts. Keep track of your commitments and meet them. Get all agency promises in writing.
  • Be sure you have an effective recordkeeping system in place and up to date.
  • Thank agency personnel in writing for their assistance.