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Unexpected OSHA Visits – Setting a Procedure Before it Happens

- August 2, 2019 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

When your employees work construction, landscaping, or perform as service in public view, they bring the risk of a surprise drop-in visit from an OSHA compliance officer. This visit can result in fines that can be exacerbated by the mishandling of the situation by the employee on site. Do you have a protocol to handle a random visit by a compliance officer? Will your employees know how to react?

In a manufacturing environment, managing an unexpected OSHA visit is as simple as making a phone call to the executive or safety manager on site. However, alone at a job site, who’s the employee going to call, what are they supposed to say? Set your employees up for a stress-free interaction by reviewing our pointers below.

What if OSHA stops at your job site?

  1. If OSHA stops at your job site, they probably think they already saw something concerning, but that doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. Don’t panic!
  2. Stop your work and use your top-notch customer service skills to greet the compliance officer.
  3. The compliance officer must be able to show you their official ID.
  4. A compliance officer will never ask you to pay a fine on the spot.

  5. Ask the officer what the scope of the inspection is. Then let him, or her know you need to contact your supervisor according to your company policy.
  6. Take a break from working while you wait for your supervisor. Being polite and making general conversation with the compliance officer is encouraged. Do not turn the conversation to work.
  7. To prevent the compliance officer from arbitrarily looking around the worksite before your supervisor arrives, inform the compliance officer that your company policy requires a ’Formal Opening Conference’ with a supervisor.
  8. If the compliance officer asks you work-related questions, remind them that you need to wait for your supervisor and change the subject casually. Never lie or try to cover anything up! The compliance officer may have already taken evidential photos of the worksite.
  9. If the compliance officer starts looking around your site, escort him or her. Take pictures of everything they look at.
  10. If the compliance officer points out an obvious hazard that you can correct – then do so immediately. An example of this is a ladder that may be leaning unsafely against a wall. Move it to a safe position.
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