OSHA Inspection Process: What to Expect

OSHA inspection processs - responsable safety staffing

Most employers dread the realization that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may knock on their workplace door at any time. In many ways, it can be comparable to getting an IRS audit letter in the mail. Here is a walkthrough of the OSHA inspection process so you know what to expect if a compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) drops by for a surprise inspection.  

OSHA Inspection Process: On-Site Steps


Before conducting an inspection, the OSHA inspector will research the inspection history of a worksite using various data sources, review the operations and processes in use, and the standards most likely to apply. They gather appropriate personal protective equipment and testing instruments to measure potential hazards.

Presentation of Credentials

The on-site inspection begins with the presentation of the compliance safety and health officer’s credentials, which include both a photograph and a serial number.

Opening Conference

The compliance officer will explain why OSHA selected the workplace for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection, walkaround procedures, employee representation and employee interviews. The employer then selects a representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection. An authorized representative of the employees, if any, also has the right to accompany an inspector. The compliance officer will consult privately with a reasonable number of employees during the inspection.


Following the opening conference, the compliance officer and the representatives will walk through the portions of the workplace safety areas covered by the inspection, inspecting for hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness. The compliance officer will also review worksite injury and illness records (as required by OSHA) and the posting of the official OSHA poster.

The Closing Conference

The inspector is required to have a closing conference, jointly or separately, with company and employee representatives at the end of the inspection. If management wants separate closing conferences, OSHA will hold the employee representative conference first to allow for any more employee input.

OSHA will discuss “apparent violations” (sometimes called “alleged violations”) and ways to correct hazards, deadlines, and possible fines. A second closing conference may be held if needed information, such as sampling results were not initially available. 

OSHA Inspection Process: Violations

OSHA may choose to issue citations and financial penalties to the employer for violating specific OSHA standards or regulations. OSHA must generally issue any citations within six months of the occurrence of any violations. Citations are supposed to be mailed to employee representatives no later than one day after the citation is sent to the employer.

The best way to avoid citations and fines is to keep your work environment up to OSHA standards. You can even use your own checklist to make sure that things are running smoothly before or during an inspection. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the CSHOs are, “experienced, well-trained industrial hygienists and safety professionals whose goal is to assure compliance with OSHA requirements and help employers and workers reduce on-the-job hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace.” Overall, you might dread all OSHA inspections, but they are necessary to ensure that workplaces remain safe and within regulation.

Reduce Risk with ResponsAble

At ResponsAble, we believe having well-trained, experienced safety professionals on a job site is the best way to cultivate a positive safety culture. Because we are one of the only agencies that specialize in industrial safety staffing, we can provide a higher level of thoroughness and attention to your safety project. We have the ability to staff experienced Safety Professionals and Managers, Confined Space/Hole Watch Attendants, and Industrial Laborers.

Give us a call at 225-753-1909 to talk with us about your upcoming projects.

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