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What are my rights when an OSHA inspector comes to my workplace?

By Gary Blake | Last updated: June 11, 2018
Presented by Safety Plus Inc.

There is always some stress and upheaval when an OSHA compliance officer shows up at your workplace. You can't unreasonably interfere with their investigation, but that doesn't mean you have to let the inspector have free access to your entire workplace.

Here are some of your rights when OSHA shows up to inspect your workplace.

1. You don't need a union member to represent your employees.


In the past, non-unionized workplaces were allowed to choose a union-affiliated representative for walkaround inspections. This has since been reversed. Now, the designee must be an employee of the company.

Designated representatives are typically drawn from a company safety committee. If there is no safety committee, a representative can be chosen from the employees at large.

2. You don't need to give the compliance officer a tour of your entire workplace.

Unless there is a special emphasis program, a warrant, or a hazard in plain view, OSHA cannot expand the scope of a complaint-based inspection beyond the location and hazard identified in the complaint without the employer’s consent. The employer should insist that the inspection be limited to that location. Determining your route to the complaint location is very important and may require you to walk outside the building to limit any plain view issues.

3. Your non-management employees don't have to agree to an interview.

It's your employee's choice whether they want to agree to an interview with the compliance officer or not. If they don't feel comfortable, they don't have to.

If they decide not to voluntarily participate in the interview, however, the compliance officer does have the authority to subpoena your employee to complete an interview.

4. You can postpone the inspection until your designated representative arrives on site.

If your representative is unavailable, you can request that the compliance officer return later or wait until your representative is available.

The OSHA Act grants employers the right to be represented during an OSHA inspection and to accompany an OSHA compliance officer during on-site inspection activities. You have the right to designate whoever you want to fill that role, and if that person is not available at the moment OSHA arrives but can be available in a reasonable amount of time, you can request that the compliance officer wait or return later (for related reading, see 6 Steps to Prepare for Unexpected OSHA Visits).

An OSHA investigation is a high-pressure situation for any safety manager, even if you feel like your safety program is in good shape. For more information on what to do during an OSHA visit and an opportunity to ask any further questions you may have, register for Safety Plus, Inc’s June 20th webinar, Managing OSHA Visits Part 2: What to Do During the Investigation.

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Written by Gary Blake | Vice President of Industrial Development

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Gary Blake is the Vice President of Industrial Development at Safety Plus, Inc. He holds a degree in Industrial Technology for the University of Wisconsin and has worked in Safety and Logistics with Industrial, Maritime, and Construction companies throughout the country. In 2001 Gary began working with Safety Plus, Inc providing management services and assisting Owner Clients on preparing for regulatory audits with primary focus on OSHA-related issues. Over the past decade his focus has been on developing SPI’s Industrial Services Division with Safety Professional and Rescue Teams providing specialized services around the country. Gary has certifications in Safety/IH/Quality Control and is involved in multiple industry-related professional organizations. He is a father of two and currently resides in Mobile, AL with his wife Sue.

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