With upwards of eight million employers falling under its jurisdiction, OSHA can’t be present at every worksite every day. Instead, the agency relies on a team of about 2,000 inspectors to visit worksites and ensure compliance with all applicable rules and regulations issued, often without advanced notice being given to the employer. 

This year, OSHA is shifting its inspection process to a more complex and potentially invasive audit. Under the new inspection criteria, OSHA could be at a business for days instead of hours. 

In order to focus its limited resources on the most hazardous worksites, OSHA has six main inspection priorities to prompt an investigation: 
  • imminent danger situations; 
  • fatalities and catastrophes; 
  • complaints registered by employees; 
  • referrals from other agencies; 
  • follow-up inspections for worksites previously found to be in violation of OSHA health and safety standards; and 
  • planned or programmed investigations of targeted industries or areas. 
Before an Inspection 
With OSHA’s expanded audit process, businesses are best served by taking a more aggressive approach to workplace safety—one that is proactive and focused on identifying and addressing hazards before they result in injuries. From a best practices standpoint, employers should have a plan in place that includes written safety policies and procedures, job hazard analysis, employee training, and accident and incident investigation. 

An organization’s safety plan also should designate a point person that can act as a resource for any onsite safety questions or concerns. It’s best to choose someone with previous safety experience, as this person will need to be able to effectively interact with both management and employees and represent the organization should OSHA come knocking. 

During an Inspection
Three main components comprise an inspection: 
  • An opening conference. During this brief meeting, the OSHA inspector will explain the purpose of the inspection. 
  • A worksite “walkaround.” This is the actual inspection. The OSHA official, escorted by the appropriate member of management or safety point person, will tour the facility in order to observe the working conditions and identify any violations. The inspector will take photos and jot down notes during the inspection, as well as ask questions about the organization’s processes and practices. The inspector also may ask to interview certain workers. 
  • A closing conference. This meeting will be scheduled upon the conclusion of the inspection, which may take anywhere from one day to several weeks, depending on the size of the facility. During this meeting, the inspector will disclose any hazards or violations identified during the course of the inspection, as well as any possible citations or fines the organization may face. Citations include the following: an explanation of the violation or hazard, methods the employer can use to address and fix the problem, and the date by which the employer must have implemented the corrective actions. 
After an Inspection 
If the inspection report identifies any hazards or violations, employers should make correcting the problems a main priority, even if formal citations have not yet been filed. 

Providing a safe and healthy working environment for employees not only minimizes the risk of costly on-the-job accidents and provides a business with an additional layer of liability protection, but also helps keep employees happy, healthy and productive throughout their tenure with the organization. 


Doug Heywood is director of safety for G&A Partners. For more information, visit gnapartners.com