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What to Expect During an OSHA Visit

Posted: February 15th, 2022

Author: All4 Staff 


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a regulatory agency of the Department of Labor. OSHA is committed to enforcing fair, effective safety and health requirements in the workplace to protect the well-being of employees. Official OSHA inspectors are commonly referred to as compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) or compliance officers. Learn more about what to expect during an OSHA visit.

How Does OSHA Decide Whom to Inspect?

There are numerous reasons why OSHA may visit a work site and perform an inspection. What happens when OSHA visits will also vary depending on the reasons behind the inspection. There are numerous situations that may gain the attention of OSHA and result in a workplace evaluation. OSHA prioritizes inspections if they suspect an employer is directly or indirectly putting employees in imminent danger.

If an employer has a record of severe illnesses, injuries or employee fatalities, OSHA will likely perform an inspection as soon as possible to prevent future injury to employees. Another reason OSHA may conduct an inspection is if they continue to receive worker complaints, particularly if there is a large number or if they’re coming from various departments.

Referrals of hazardous conditions from local, state or federal agencies, media outlets, individuals or organizations may also result in workplace inspections. There are also programmed inspections, including those falling under an OSHA emphasis program.

Even if an employer does not have a record of employee injury or illness, OSHA often performs inspections in high-hazard industries and workplaces, including industrial or manufacturing plants.

Does OSHA Have to Give Notice?

In almost all cases, OSHA does not perform inspections with advanced notice. Still, employers do have the right to require all compliance officers to obtain and present an inspection warrant before entering a work site. While most inspections are unannounced or considered random, there are four conditions when OSHA provides advanced inspection notice:


  • Imminent danger: If a workplace poses an imminent or immediate threat to employees, OSHA may notify the organization that they plan to perform an inspection. OSHA often chooses to inform management in hopes the company will immediately improve conditions and promote safety among employees.
  • After business hours: Another reason OSHA may provide advanced notice is if the inspection would occur after standard business hours or if special accommodations or preparations are needed.
  • Management not present: OSHA may also notify a company of an upcoming inspection if management or employee representatives may not be on-site without notice.
  • Miscellaneous: OSHA may decide to provide advanced notice for any other circumstances they deem fit. If OSHA believes a more comprehensive inspection would yield better results, they will likely provide advanced notice. One example may include a fatality investigation.


The Scary 13

The “scary 13” is a term used to describe the common issues many employers may face or documents they may struggle to provide during OSHA inspections. These 13 elements are often difficult for an employer, making them essential to understand and prepare for. A firm understanding of the scary 13 can help your company get ready for a potential OSHA inspection. These 13 elements include:


  1. A comprehensive, up-to-date report of all chemicals used on the work site
  2. Training records for electrical safe practices and tasks
  3. Training on personal protective equipment (PPE)
  4. Up-to-date hazard communication education and training for employees working with chemicals currently on the job site
  5. Yearly respirator training
  6. Training on bloodborne pathogens
  7. Forklift recertification
  8. Training on noise exposure
  9. Written personal protective equipment hazard assessment and certification
  10. Tagout and lockout audits
  11. Lockout-authorized employee training
  12. Confined spaces non-permit certification
  13. State workers’ compensation or temporary employees’ OSHA 301 report of injury


Opening Conference

During the opening conference, an OSHA agent will explain to the employers and management why the company was chosen for an inspection and further define the scope of the review. At this time, an employer will select a company representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection and answer any relevant questions.

Additionally, an authorized representative of the employees can also accompany the compliance officer. During the inspection, the compliance officer will consult directly with numerous employees in private to gather applicable information.

The CSHO will provide the company with reasons for the inspection. If an employee complaint causes the inspection, the CSHO will provide the employer with a copy of the complaint with all personal or identifying information removed.


During the CSHO’s inspection, they will perform multiple confidential interviews with employees. The employer should designate a private area where the compliance officer and employees can speak freely. In most cases, these interviews are quite quick and only take a few minutes. Employee interviews generally cover how long the employees have worked for the business and their types of training.

Employee interviews are designed to gauge the overall level of training and work site education the average company employee has. For the comfort of employees, they can choose to answer these questions in private or opt to have a supervisor present if they prefer. In some cases, a translator may be needed.

It’s important to note that during an OSHA inspection, employees must truthfully answer all questions asked by the inspector. Employees have the right to decline to answer a question at any time during the interview process.

For translation purposes, OSHA will provide the service via phone or headset to facilitate clear communication between the CSHO and employee. All compliance officers try to minimize interruptions during the workday while still gathering the information they need for their inspection. All trade secrets a compliance officer observes during their inspection will remain confidential.

Walk-Around Inspection

Following the opening conference, the CSHO will walk through the sections of the workplace that directly relate to the reason for the inspection, such as departments noted in direct employee complaints. The compliance officer will assess the workplace and determine any potential dangers or hazards that may result in employee illness, injury or death.

During the walk-around inspection, the compliance officer will also review any work site illness or injury records. If there are apparent OSHA violations that can quickly be addressed, the compliance officer will likely mention these issues, allowing the employer to rectify a situation promptly. The law requires these hazards to be cited, but if an employer quickly and effectively corrects the issue, it often reflects well during the inspection.

Closing Conference

The compliance officer will perform a closing conference with any representatives involved to close out an inspection. In most cases, the closing conference occurs anywhere from one to six weeks after the physical inspection and is often performed over the phone. During this conference, the officer will discuss their findings and explain any violations resulting in a fine or citation.

Additionally, the compliance officer will discuss corrective actions to implement and provide a reasonable timeline for when these improvements should be made. They may also refer the employer to any relevant consultation services that may aid them in making workplace corrections and improvements.

If an employer has promptly corrected an issue, they may qualify for OSHA’s quick-fix penalty reduction program, reducing potential costs of a fine, but it is important to note that not all violations fall under this program. Fines and citations are deemed official once an area office review occurs and the employer is officially notified by certified mail.

How to Prepare for a Surprise OSHA Inspection

Preparing for a potential OSHA inspection can ensure you are ready to demonstrate your company’s commitment to health and safety for a compliance officer. One way to prepare for an OSHA inspection is to work with an occupational safety and health compliance consultant. An ALL4 compliance consultant can help you understand what to expect during an OSHA inspection and how to prepare.

ALL4 health and safety consultants and industrial hygienists work in various industries, including manufacturing, pharmaceutical, automobile, energy and federal defense agencies. Our experts help create effective site-specific strategies to minimize workplace injuries and accidents and effectively manage and mitigate risk. Working directly with a safety and health compliance consultant can help you prepare for an OSHA inspection, reducing the risk of expensive fines and citations.

Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Consultants

ALL4 can help your company prepare for a potential OSHA visit and implement the latest and most effective health and safety regulations. Our team of experts provides an objective and unbiased review of potential company issues and best practices to implement, including safety program development, compliance auditing and more.

Contact an OSHA expert online today to ensure your business follows the latest safety and health regulations.


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