The OSHA Act grants representatives of the Department of Labor the right to inspect any place of employment in order to determine whether an employer is in compliance with the Act’s safety and health standards. However, such inspections must occur at reasonable times–that is, during regular work hours, within reasonable limits, and in a reasonable manner.
Both the employer and employee representatives have “walk-around” rights to accompany the inspector during an inspection, although employees need not be paid by the employer for this time. If the employer is not permitted to accompany the inspector, any citations resulting from the inspection may be overturned.
During the inspection, an employer should perform the same activities undertaken by the inspector, for example, conducting both air and personal monitoring, taking photographs, and taking notes of the types of measuring instruments and procedures utilized by the inspector. This information may become useful in a subsequent enforcement proceeding, both as evidence at a hearing or in a settlement negotiation. An inspector may interview employees to the extent that such discussions do not interfere with the performance of work.
Tips for Effective Walkthrough
- When asked to look at an area, make sure to take the most direct route
- Do not hide anything from the inspector
- Answer questions honestly and directly, state the facts and avoid speculation
- Be polite and respectful at all times
- Correct any unsafe conditions if it is safe to do so; e.g. removing a pallet from in front of an emergency exit door.
Summary of Your Rights as an Employer
- Accompany the inspector on the tour of the facility
- Hold an opening and closing conference
- Take photos of what the inspector takes photos of
- Keep a record of any document copies that you make for the inspector (keep originals for your files)
- Take detailed notes
- Keep a list of employees the inspector speaks to and note the length of the conversation
- Make on the spot corrections as long as no employee is placed in danger by the change for any items noted by the inspector. (i.e. move a pallet that is blocking an exit door)
After the inspection, the inspector will summarize the findings and informally advise the company of any problems and later issue a formal report. Following these guidelines will help you to minimize any exposure that may result from the findings.