OSHA Inspection Checklist: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Compliance

Ensuring a safe and healthy workplace is not only a legal obligation but also a moral duty for employers. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections play a crucial role in enforcing safety standards and protecting workers.

Here's a comprehensive guide to understanding and preparing for an OSHA inspection.

What's Inside?

Introduction to OSHA Inspections

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OSHA inspections are systematic evaluations of workplaces to ensure compliance with safety and health standards. These inspections are vital for identifying potential hazards, preventing accidents, and ensuring that workplaces adhere to federal safety regulations.

Inspections can be based on individual complaints regarding unsafe workplaces, in response to an incident or death, or programmatic based on current OSHA initiatives.

Stages of an OSHA Inspection

Understanding the stages of an OSHA inspection can help employers prepare adequately and ensure a smooth process. An OSHA inspection typically involves four main stages: the Opening Conference, Walkaround Inspection, Document Review and Employee Interviews, and the Closing Conference.

60906---OT-Guide-Graphics-Opening-ConferenceOpening Conference: Initial Meeting with Compliance Officer

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The inspection begins with an opening conference, a critical initial meeting between the compliance officer and the employer. Here’s what typically happens during this stage:

  • Purpose of the Opening Conference: The primary aim is to set the stage for the inspection, explaining its purpose and scope.
  • Presentation of Credentials: The compliance officer will present their official credentials, which include a photograph and a serial number. This step verifies their authority to conduct the inspection.
  • Explanation of the Inspection: The officer will outline why the inspection is taking place, whether it’s due to a complaint, a routine inspection, or a follow-up on a previous violation.
  • Request for Records: Employers are required to provide injury and illness records, which the officer will review to understand the workplace's safety history.

Walkaround Inspection: Assessing Workplace Conditions60906---OT-Guide-Graphics-Walk-Around

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The walkaround inspection is the most extensive part of the process, where the compliance officer physically tours the workplace to identify hazards. This stage involves: 

  • Touring the Facility: The compliance officer, accompanied by employer and employee representatives, walks through the facility. 
  • Identifying Hazards: The officer looks for any conditions that could pose a risk to employee safety, such as faulty equipment, poor housekeeping, or inadequate safety measures. 
  • Documentation: The compliance officer may take photographs, make sketches, and collect samples to document potential violations. 
  • Employee Interaction: The officer might speak with employees to gather insights into workplace conditions and safety practices. 
  • Immediate Corrections: If any violations are identified and can be corrected on the spot, employers are encouraged to do so immediately. This demonstrates a proactive approach to safety and may mitigate potential penalties. 

Document Review and Employee Interviews

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In this stage, the compliance officer conducts a thorough review of the workplace's documentation and may interview employees to gather more information. Key activities include:60906---OT-Guide-Graphics-Document-Interviews

  • Review of Safety Records: The officer examines records such as safety manuals, training logs, OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report). 
  • Employee Interviews: The officer may interview employees privately to understand their perspective on workplace safety. These interviews can reveal compliance gaps and provide insights into the effectiveness of the employer's safety programs. If applicable, a union representative can participate in these interviews. 
  • Assessment of Safety Programs: The officer evaluates the employer’s safety and health programs to ensure they meet OSHA standards. 

Closing Conference: Conclusion of the Inspection

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The closing conference is the final stage of the OSHA inspection, where the compliance officer summarizes their findings. This stage includes:60906---OT-Guide-Graphics-Closing-Conference

  • Discussion of Findings: The officer discusses any violations observed during the inspection, explaining the nature of the hazards and the specific standards that were violated. 
  • Next Steps: Employers are informed about the steps they need to take to correct the violations, including timelines for abatement. 
  • Potential Penalties: The officer provides information on potential penalties and the process for contesting citations. 
  • Employer Questions: Employers can ask questions, seek clarification, and discuss any concerns regarding the inspection findings. 

Understanding these stages helps employers prepare more effectively for an OSHA inspection, ensuring they meet compliance requirements and maintain a safe workplace. Proper preparation and proactive safety measures can significantly impact the outcome of an OSHA inspection. 

Preparing for an OSHA Inspection

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Preparation is key to a smooth OSHA inspection. Here are some tips for employers:

  1. Maintain Accurate Records: Keep comprehensive and up-to-date injury and illness records.

  2. Know Your Rights: Employers can request the inspector obtain a warrant to access the facility. That said, cooperation is generally advisable.

  3. Safety Program Development: It is vital to ensure your organization has a safety program that encompasses the unique nature of your business and addresses all required programs/plans.

  4. Training and Documentation: Ensure all employee training is current and well-documented.

  5. Conduct Internal Audits: Regularly perform internal safety audits and address any issues promptly.

Duration and Prioritization of Inspections

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The duration of an OSHA inspection can vary from a few hours to several weeks, depending on the size of the facility and the complexity of the issues. OSHA prioritizes inspections based on criteria like the examples below.

OSHA Inspection Criteria Examples

  1. Imminent Danger: Situations where workers face immediate risk of death or serious injury.

  2. Severe Injuries and Fatalities: Incidents resulting in death or hospitalization.

  3. Worker Complaints: Reports from employees about unsafe conditions.

  4. Referrals and Targeted Inspections: Based on specific hazards or industry risks.

  5. Follow-up Inspections: To ensure previously identified violations have been corrected.

Post-Inspection Process

After the inspection, OSHA will issue a final report and citations, usually within six months. Employers may face penalties and are required to take corrective actions. They have the right to request an informal conference to discuss citations and possibly reduce penalties. 

Key OSHA Standards Assessed During Inspections

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OSHA inspections often focus on high-risk areas, including:

  1. Confined Space Entry

  2. Hot Work Procedures

  3. Fall Protection

  4. Electrical Safety Practices

  5. Conditions Leading to Caught-between or Struck-by Accidents


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Compliance with OSHA regulations is essential for maintaining a safe workplace and avoiding costly penalties. By understanding the inspection process and proactively addressing potential hazards, employers can ensure a safer environment for their employees and demonstrate a commitment to workplace safety.  

By following this guide, you can better navigate the complexities of OSHA inspections and foster a culture of safety within your organization. Remember, a proactive approach to safety not only helps in compliance but also protects the most valuable asset of any business – its employees. 

For expert guidance and support in maintaining compliance and enhancing workplace safety, trust OCCU-TEC. Our team of professionals offers comprehensive safety training and consulting services tailored to your specific needs.

Partner with OCCU-TEC to ensure your workplace meets OSHA standards and remains a safe environment for everyone. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve excellence in workplace safety.