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What does an OSHA inspection involve?

QUESTION: What does an OSHA inspection involve?

ANSWER: An OSHA inspection begins with preparation by the Compliance Safety and Health Officers from OSHA. They review the worksite's inspection history, operations and processes, and review any standards that may be applicable to the worksite. They bring appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and any testing instruments necessary for measuring potential hazards.

When they arrive for the inspection, the Compliance Officers present their credentials and will ask to see the employer/employer representative. During an "Opening Conference" the employer receives an explanation about why the particular worksite was selected for inspection, and then the employer will be asked to select an employee representative.

The Compliance Officers perform a 'walkaround' of the worksite accompanied by the employer and the employee representative. During the 'walkaround', the worksite is inspected for hazards that could lead to employee injury, illness or fatality, and health and safety practices and conditions in the worksite will be observed. The Compliance Officers may collect air samples; take instrument readings; monitor employee exposure to toxins, fumes, and dust; survey engineering controls; and take photos and video.

The Compliance Officers may choose to privately interview some of the employees at the worksite during the inspection. The Compliance Officers will maintain confidentiality of any trade secrets observed and make an effort to minimize any interruptions of production at the worksite.

The injury, illness and fatality records for the worksite will be reviewed, and the Compliance Officers will check to see if the worksite is in compliance with OSHA's posting, recordkeeping, and hazard communication requirements.

During the inspection, the Compliance Officers will request a copy of the employer's Hazard Communication Program which should contain the list of hazardous chemicals that are located at the worksite, as well as the methods by which the employer informs their employees about any chemical hazards in the workplace. Methods of communication may include hazard labeling, safety signs, container labeling, material safety data sheets, and employee training.

At the end of the inspection, a 'Closing Conference' will be held to go over what was found in the inspection and discuss possible courses of action that may be taken as well as discussing any resources that may be available to the employer. OSHA's main goal is the maintenance of compliance with OSHA standards and requirements, and the elimination of hazards to improve safety in the workplace, so they work towards reaching that objective as quickly as possible.

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Tags: OSHA questions and answers, OSHA inspections, OSHA labeling