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Do You Really Know How To Manage An OSHA Inspection?


Many articles on handling OSHA inspections provide the same basic guidelines and little explanation of why an employer should take certain steps. Readers already know to take photos whenever the compliance officer takes shots and to take notes, but do you know why to take those photos and what to look for? What do you need to note in order to challenge citations when they are issued 6 months later? 

Plan in advance:  Every company site should have a number of managers who know the basic steps to take whenever any government investigator shows up.  

Manage the inspection:  The first step is to determine why OSHA is present. Many inspections are triggered by a complaint, and OSHA must tell you the terms. Admit OSHA for the stated purpose, and limit the inspection to the scope of the complaint.

Develop a defense strategy:  In developing defenses, dig, dig, dig. There are always more facts. Don’t delegate. Ask the questions yourself. Exercise your right to sit in on or have counsel attend interviews of any employee who supervises employees because he or she can bind the company. If a fatality, project delay, or any ancillary legal matter is involved, explain to OSHA that your principal concern is with protecting the client in other legal arenas. 

Don’t just accept citations or a penalty reduction: Do go to OSHA informally after citations are issued, and do contest all citations if you have reasonable arguments. 

Finally, do not miss the contest period. And be aware that many states with their own workplace safety programs, such as California and Oregon, may have different appeal processes.

This article appeared on August 30, 2013 on


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