This is the second part of a 3 part series on OSHA inspections. See here for the other parts:
- Click here for Part 1 - Why would OSHA pay me a visit? (Read if this before continuing if you haven't)
- Click here for Part 3 - What Will They Be Looking For?
If an OSHA inspector arrived at your operation this morning, would you be ready for an inspection? The number of OSHA inspections in agriculture are expected to increase. OSHA recognizes more and more ag operations have more than 10 employees and these operations fall under their jurisdiction. OSHA does not announce they are coming, in fact, advance notice is prohibited.
The intent of this blog is to share some information that you need to know prior to an OSHA inspection. We intend to cover some considerations to help you better understand what is involved and hopefully see preparation is essential to having an inspection go well.
Here are some guidelines for employees if they meet an inspector on the premises looking to conduct an investigation:
- Be gracious and polite to the inspector(s) at all times.
- Do NOT volunteer any information at all with regard to safety concerns or issues till after the opening conference.
- Find a Waiting Area and Contact Company Authorities: Invite the Inspector(s) into a private office and have them wait till the company’s principal authority(s) arrive (Owner, Operations Manager, Safety Director, HR Director, etc).
- Contact Principal Authorities: Get the company leaders, management and any legal representatives that is needed according to your company policy.
- Company Authority Must Review Warrant: It’s acceptable to ask to review the warrant before permitting entry. An inspector with a warrant cannot be unreasonably prevented from entering the facility. If a warrant is not provided you can keep them from entering the premises.
Guidelines to follow during an OHSA inspection:
- Opening Conference
- What is the reason for the inspection? Were you selected randomly or neutral criteria?
- Were you selected because of an accident or a complaint?
- What areas of the facility will be inspected?
- What amount of time does the inspector expect to spend at the facility? (hours or days)
- Explain your facility’s safety rules to the inspector as you would a visitor.
- Provide all the necessary PPE that is required.
- Only Authorized Company representatives can release any documents
- OSHA normally asks for at least the last 3 years of OSHA 301 reports. OSHA 300 logs, or your most recent 300A. This provides them insight into the types of injuries and the frequency.
- Whenever submitting documents to the inspector, make two copies, one for them and one for yourself.
- Photographs and Videotaping by the inspector
- OSHA inspectors carry very good cameras for video and still photography. Be sure to have a camera available (your cell phone) so that you mimic their recordings and documentation.
- Make a written record of the photographs and videotaping taken by the Inspector and by you.
- Follow similar practices with any samples that the inspector takes. Request to split the sample. Document what the sample contains, who, when and where the sample was taken.
- Private interviews of non-management employees are allowed, but not while an employee is performing a work-related task. Management cannot sit in on the interview unless the employee specifically asks for them to be there as a witness.
- Confirm with the Inspector that they will advise the hourly employees that they have a right to refuse an interview.
- A Company Authority must sit in on management interviews because their testimony is binding.
- Do NOT offer theories or speculate about how an incident may have happened. Stick only to the facts as known. Management has the legal right to confer with legal counsel before answering any particular questions
- Never ask the Inspector for his or her interpretation of a particular regulation.
- Closing/Exit Conference
- A Closing/Exit Conference should be set up to include the Company Authority and/or an Executive Officer.
- Do not argue the validity of any proposed citations.
- If you are asked to give or agree to an abatement date, do not commit to a date. State that you will need to study the situation.
- Make sure the Inspector knows who should be contacted for correspondence.
- The Company Authority and/or legal representative should handle all written responses to OSHA.
Having your operation and staff prepared for an OSHA inspection can allow you to pass or at least mitigate citations. Being un-prepared for inspection can allow it to go poorly, which can result in significant fines. The above concepts can give you a starting point to dive into for creating an investigation plan. We have an outline that can help you prepare for an OSHA inspection. Knowing what to do and what not to do during an investigation affects the lives of your employees and your operations’ health.
Keep reading: Read Part 3 - What Will They Be Looking For? now!