How to Prepare for an OSHA Inspection

Business is going well. Your aerial lift workers are up to speed with their safety training. You can’t recall the last time you had an accident. Then, out of the blue, OSHA says they want to inspect your work site.

A visit from OSHA is a real cause for concern. Even a single violation can result in a costly fine up to $13,000. If you have a track record of violations, or one that causes a serious injury or death, it gets worse. For example, OSHA fined the supermarket chain Wegmans $188,000 for repeated safety violations.

But fear not. If you know how to prepare for an OSHA inspection, you can take steps to protect your business. Part of this has to do with making sure your aerial lift operators are trained and certified.

Why OSHA Conducts Inspections

OSHA safety is all about fair and effective enforcement of health and safety regulations in the workplace. OSHA will inspect a business for these reasons:

– Imminent danger

– Severe injuries and illnesses

– Worker complaints

– Referrals of hazards from non-OSHA sources

– Companies with high rates of illness or injury

– Follow-up inspections

In most cases, OSHA conducts inspections without advance notice. Employers have the right to require compliance officers to obtain an inspection warrant before entering the worksite. If OSHA contacts you about an inspection, you can say no. OSHA must then obtain a warrant to conduct the inspection.

OSHA will provide advance notice of an inspection for only a few reasons. These include:

– Urgent safety matters

– Accidents that involve fatalities

– Scheduling conflicts with managers

– When “special preparations” are needed

The Basic Process

All OSHA inspections consist of a 3-tiered process. This occurs whether or not the inspection is scheduled in advance.

  1. Initial meeting or conference call. When the OSHA compliance officer shows up at your door, he or she will:

– Explain the purpose of the inspection

– Ask to meet with management and workers

– Check the log of work-related injuries and illnesses

– Conduct a walkaround of the work site

– This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours.

  1. The walkaround.

The OSHA safety inspector examines all manner of your operations. This can include those you may not consider safety violations. If there was an accident or other type of incident, the inspector will want to talk to affected workers. This may be in the form of private interviews. The inspector may also test for dust, fumes, or other hazard risks. You have the right to ask about these tests and to receive a summary of the samplings.

The walkaround phase of the OSHA safety inspection could also deal with employee training records. OSHA may ask to see worker human resource files, include training credentials. If you have untrained aerial lift operators, OSHA may levy a costly fine.

During the walkaround, OSHA can inspect the following areas related to aerial or scissor lifts:

– Mechanical operation

– Maintenance plans

– Employee training records

Anything that is out of compliance in these areas can be deemed a violation.

  1. Closing meeting.

Here, the OSHA inspector will discuss any violations and how to correct them. This may include deadlines for the fixes and any fines OSHA levies. It may also include future actions on the part of OSHA. During the inspection, it’s a good idea to keep detailed notes of what the inspector does and says.

How to Prepare for an OSHA Inspection

If you’re lucky enough to have OSHA announce an inspection, you will have time to prepare. If the inspection is a surprise, there are still things you can do to avoid costly mistakes.

Know your rights.

When an OSHA safety officer shows up at your door unannounced, you have the right to ask two things. One is to see the officer’s credentials. The other is the reason for the inspection.

OSHA can’t inspect your work site without good reason. They must have probable cause. This can result from a worker complaint or accident. It can also result from an OSHA program where they inspect companies that meet certain criteria.

OSHA must explain the reason for the inspection. If someone filed a complaint, you are entitled to a written copy of it. If the inspection is part of an OSHA program, the officer must provide information about it. If you think OSHA does not have probable cause, you can decline the inspection.

Plan your response.

When an OSHA safety officer shows up unannounced, the management team needs to make three big decisions:

– Should we allow the inspection

– If so, what should be the scope of the inspection

– Who should accompany the OSHA rep on the walkaround team

You can ask OSHA for a reasonable amount of time to plan your response. Once your team reaches a decision, let the inspector know whether or not you will allow the inspection. If not, OSHA will need to obtain a search warrant to proceed.

Determine the scope of the investigation.

Don’t make the mistake of letting the OSHA safety inspector roam your work site at will. You have the right to decide where the inspector can go and what he or she can observe. Access needs to be broad enough for the officer to evaluate the area of probable cause. But you can restrict access to certain areas. To determine probable cause, OSHA needs access to:

– The hazards stated in an employee complaint

– The accident site area

– Hazards that fall within the OSHA program criteria

Allowing a broader inspection could put you at risk for citations that aren’t part of the probable cause.

This may come as a surprise, but some employers ask OSHA to perform an inspection. This often occurs when a worker expresses a safety concern, and the company contacts OSHA as a means of resolving it. It’s also a good way to ensure they stay in compliance.

OSHA may not state the exact day and time of the visit. But for serious concerns, it’s usually within 30 days of contacting them. You may want to inform co-workers and union members of the filed complaint.  That way, they can gather their comments and questions for the inspector.

Training: The Best Preparation of All

There are more ways you can prepare for surprise OSHA inspections. These include:

– Have clear, written safety policies and procedures

– Maintain a clean, organized work site

– Remove hazards when possible

– Mark hazards that can’t be removed with warning signs

– Keep aerial lifts and other equipment well maintained

– Make sure all aerial lift operators are trained and certified

As you can see, these aren’t preparation tasks. They are things you should be doing every day. So if you get hit with a surprise inspection, your risk of being out of compliance will be low.

Training your aerial lift operators to work safely and avoid accidents is crucial. You also need documentation to prove your compliance. With OSHA-compliant training from, you’ll have everything you need. Our program offers:

– Training for cherry pickers, boom lift trucks, scissor lifts, and other types of aerial lift platforms

– Printable proof of training

– All necessary handouts, checklists, and evaluation guides

– English and Spanish options

– Free three-year renewals for life

And it’s only $299 for the entire training program!

Keep your workers and your business safe and compliant. Give our aerial lift experts a call today at (602) 277-0615, or check out the contact page.


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