Enforcement and Inspection

The Four Main Stages of an OSHA Inspection

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to comply with the regulations put into place to ensure workers’ occupational safety and health or else receive penalty fines. The main method to assess a company’s compliance is by conducting an inspection. 

There are four main stages of an OSHA inspection:

  • the credential presentation 
  • the opening conference 
  • the walk-around
  • the closing conference

We’ll discuss the four stages in detail so employers can be prepared for an OSHA inspection in the workplace. 

What provokes a safety investigation in the workplace?

Compliance officers from OSHA conduct inspections in the workplace throughout each year. These inspections can be randomized or provoked.

An OSHA inspection may be triggered when: 

  • an employee reports occupational safety violations
  • imminent dangers are present
  • an accident that resulted in death or severe injury is reported  

The compliance officer will then conduct an inspection depending on what triggered it. The types of inspections include the following:

  • Employee complaint inspection: Employees are allowed to submit a complaint about an occupational health or safety hazard.
  • Imminent danger inspection: These take priority over the other three types of inspections. If OSHA has reasonable certainty there is imminent danger that could lead to death or physical harm to employees, an inspection will occur within 24 hours.
  • Programmed inspection: OSHA conducts random inspections in selected industries that involve hazardous or dangerous work to lower the number of hazards in the workplace.
  • Fatality and accident inspection: If an occupational fatality was recorded, a compliance officer will perform an inspection to determine whether the accident’s occurrence was the employer’s fault. 

What are the four main stages of an OSHA inspection?

You can begin preparing for the OSHA inspection once an incident or complaint has been reported. An officer usually presents during the 30 days after the occurrence. 

Stage 1: Presenting OSHA credentials

The compliance officer will immediately establish the person in charge and present their OSHA credentials. 

When the officer arrives, the employer is allowed to ask for a warrant before the officer begins the inspection.

Stage 2: The opening conference 

The next step is for the compliance officer to talk to management, the employees, and their representatives. 

The opening conference is performed and is usually only a brief presentation to explain:

  • what triggered an OSHA workplace inspection,
  • the purpose of the visit, and
  • the scope of the inspection and the walkaround procedures.

The inspector usually requests the Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses and the company’s hazard assessment, so employers should ensure they’re available on hand.

Stage 3: Walk-around procedures 

A walk-through inspection will be performed of the company’s work areas. 

They will be identifying any hazards in the workplace, especially those related to the reported incident or complaint. Observations are documented via photographs and videos. 

Tools can be used to monitor and measure exposure to: 

  • noise
  • air contamination such as dust and fumes 
  • any other hazardous substances 

If the compliance offer sees necessary, private interviews that are voluntary may be conducted with employees and their representatives. 

If they agree to being interviewed, they can:

  • indicate hazards 
  • describe any incidents that resulted from the hazards in the past 
  • detail other complaints from employees that they are aware of 

Stage 4: Closing conference 

Finally, the officer will disclose the violations they observed and offer suggestions to correct the observed workplace hazards. 

The closing conference can be a joint conference, or the official may present to the employer, employees or their representatives separately. In the event of the latter, the official will present to the employees and their representatives first. Any input will be incorporated when presenting the observations to the employer. 

They will indicate the proposed penalties to the employer and express how long they have to rectify the violations. 

The company can later request the opportunity to reduce any issued fines. 

Monitoring inspections

A monitoring inspection or follow-up is often conducted to investigate whether the employer has corrected the violations as indicated and implemented the changes recommended. 

If the employer does not mitigate the hazard, it will be subject to a penalty for “failure to abate.” This penalty could cost up to $13,653 per day until it rectifies the violation.

It could be useful to employ a compliance specialist to ensure OSHA compliance and reduce the chance of penalty fines. 

Key takeaways 

If a compliance officer finds that a company violates an OSHA standard, the company could be liable for significant fines, penalties, and increased insurance premiums. 

Therefore, it’s beneficial to know what to expect during an inspection. 

The four main stages of an OSHA workplace inspection include:

  • the credential presentation
  • the opening conference
  • the walkaround
  • the closing conference

The officer issues the penalties and details how long the employer has to rectify the violations. Failure to do so will result in more severe fines.

Employers can lessen their likelihood of OSHA violations by performing a hazard analysis and putting the necessary measures in place to ensure the occupational safety and health of their employees.

Nathan Carroll is a senior risk management consultant for Insure Compliance.