Copyright: scotttalent / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: scotttalent / 123RF Stock Photo

What should you expect from an inspection?

Ask for Inspector’s Credentials: employers should always ask to see the compliance officer’s credentials.

Compliance officers may not: collect a penalty at the time of the inspection; or promote the sale of a product or service at any time.

Opening Conference:

The compliance officer must:

  • explain how the establishment was selected; the likely scope of the inspection;
  • explain the purpose of the visit and the standards that apply;
  • give the employer a copy of any employee complaint that may be involved (with the employee’s name deleted, if the employee requests anonymity);
  • ask the employer to select an employer representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection; and
  • give an authorized employee representative the opportunity to attend the opening conference and accompany the compliance officer during the inspection.


After the opening conference, the compliance officer and accompanying representatives

  • proceed through the establishment to inspect work areas for safety and health hazards;
  • determine the route and duration of the inspection;
  • make every effort to minimize any work interruptions;
  • observe safety and health conditions and practices;
  • consult with employees privately, if necessary;
  • take photos, videotapes and instrument readings;
  • examine records;
  • collect air samples;
  • measure noise levels;
  • survey existing engineering controls; and
  • monitor employee exposure to toxic fumes, gases and dusts.

An inspection tour may cover part or all of an establishment, even if the inspection resulted from a specific complaint, fatality or catastrophe.

During the inspection tour, the compliance officer will:

  • keep all trade secrets observed confidential;
  • consult employees during the tour;
  • inspect records of deaths, injuries, and illnesses that the employer is required to keep
  • make sure the OSHA workplace poster (OSHA 3165), which explains employees’ safety and health rights, is prominently displayed;
  • request a copy of the employer’s Hazard Communication Program and Emergency Action Plan;
  • make sure employers establish a written, comprehensive communication program that includes provisions for:
    • container labeling;
    • material safety data sheets (“MSDS”); and
    • employee training program.
  • point out to the employer any unsafe or unhealthy working conditions observed; and
  • discuss possible corrective action if the employer so desires.

Closing conference

At the conclusion of the inspection, the compliance officer conducts a closing conference with the employer and/or the employees’ representative:

  • discusses with the employer all unsafe or unhealthy conditions observed during the inspection;
  • indicates all apparent violations for which he/she may issue or recommend a citation; and
  • will not indicate any specific proposed penalties but will inform the employer of appeal rights.