How To Successfully Get Through An OSHA Inspection

Compliance inspections by federal and state OSHA regulators are a possibility that employers are often not prepared for. And to make matters worse these inspections are usually unannounced. Therefore, not only is it important to have a comprehensive safety program in place but there must be a plan implemented to receive the OSHA Compliance Officer, proceed with the inspection, and conclude the visit. If not managed properly, the experience surrounding the visit could have a very negative impact on the outcome of the inspection. This is not a good thing when considering the possibilities.


Your Guide to the OSHA Inspection Process

Prior to an OSHA visit the following guidelines should be established, implemented, and trained on by all potentially affected personnel.

  1. Designate Onsite Company Representative

  2. Notify Company Representative

  3. Bring Camera and Notepad

  4. Confirm Credentials & Purpose of Visit

  5. Conduct Opening Conference

  6. Stay Within Scope

  7. Guide Through Areas of Concern

  8. Alert Area Supervisor

  9. Use Path of Least Concern

  10. Take Detailed Notes & Photos

  11. Conduct Closing Conference

  12. Include Management Personnel

  13. Escort Out of Building

  14. Keep All Documentation

Designate Onsite Company Representative

  • An onsite company representative and alternative should be designated as the contact to accompany the OSHA Compliance Officer in all aspects of the inspection.

  • These company representatives should be familiar with OSHA standards applicable to the facility, the health and safety conditions of the workplace, the company’s health and safety program, and the location of pertinent records.

  • An EHS or Safety Manager are common choices for this role.

Notify Company Representative

  • The reception attendant, or other person initially greeting the OSHA Compliance Officer, should politely ask them to wait as the company representative is contacted. The OSHA Compliance Officer should not be made to wait for an extended length of time, so keep the wait to under an hour.

  • The site manager should be notified of the visit in case their involvement is needed.

  • Other management personnel may need to be contacted to instruct production to be ready for an inspection.

Bring Camera and Notepad

  • The company representative should be the one who receives the OSHA Compliance Officer into the facility.

  • However, prior to meeting with the OSHA Compliance Officer, the company representative should obtain a camera and notepad to document any observations during the inspection. 

Confirm Credentials & Purpose of Visit

  • The company representative should politely greet the OSHA Compliance Officer and confirm credentials.

  • At this moment, it is appropriate to ask what the purpose of the visit is, what the OSHA Compliance Officer wants to see and do, and how long the visit is expected to last.    

Conduct Opening Conference

  • The company representative should find a location to meet with the OSHA Compliance Officer for an opening conference. All affected management should attend.

Stay Within Scope

  • The OSHA Compliance Officer should be allowed to lead the investigation. However, it is critical to remain within the scope of the purpose of the visit. The company representative will provide guidance as the inspection is proceeded with.

  • The company representative should keep the inspection moving toward completion.

Guide Through Areas of Concern

  • The company representative should escort the OSHA Compliance Officer when going to areas of concern or taking any tours.

  • The OSHA Compliance Officer should never be left unattended. 

Alert Area Supervisor

  • Notification should be given to the area supervisor or lead person of the affected area to inform them that the OSHA Compliance Officer is coming.

  • Someone other than the company representative should provide that notification.

Use Path of Least Concern

  • It is important that the company representative takes the path of least concern when taking the OSHA Compliance Officer to an area of interest.

  • In the case of a requested tour of the facility, a pre-arranged path should already be determined.

Take Detailed Notes & Photos

  • The company representative should take thorough notes and photos of everything the OSHA Compliance Officer notices and comments on. 

  • All aspects of the inspection should be noted including the areas that are inspected, names of employees interviewed, and identification of any photographs, measurements, or samples that are taken.

  • Correct any observed findings as soon as possible.

Conduct Closing Conference

  • At the end of the inspection or tour, the company representative should take the OSHA Compliance Officer back to the opening conference room for any further discussion, document review, employee interviews, and close out of the visit.

  • Further Discussion:

    • Answer questions with simple and direct answers. Explain as necessary but do not be confrontational.

    • Avoid providing examples, additional details, speculation, and over-explaining. 

    • Always remain polite and cooperative.

    • Never admit violations or unsafe practices.

  • Document Review:

    • Provide requested documentation. Do not volunteer documents that are not required by OSHA standards or specifically requested. Refer to legal counsel for any requests of information not required by OSHA.

    • All document requests made by the OSHA Compliance Officer should be made in writing or an email. 

    • Make sure that all documents requested are complete and accurate. 

    • It is good practice to copy all documents that are provided to the OSHA Compliance Officer.

  • Interviews with Non-Supervisory Staff:

    • Employees have the right to speak privately with OSHA. Company representatives are not entitled to be present for these interviews unless requested by the employee. Keep in mind though that the OSHA Compliance Officer may resist this.

    • Employees have the right to request that they not be tape-recorded.

    • It is good practice to inform employees what type of questions may be asked. Typical questioning may refer to safety training, violations, or past injuries.

    • Always advise employees to tell the truth. Also, it is very important to avoid any pressuring, coercing or retaliating against any of these employees being interviewed.

  • Interviews with Supervisory Staff:

    • A company representative has the right to be present during these interviews and should exercise that right. 

    • Legal counsel may be advisable, depending on the situation, to make sure that questions are clearly asked and correctly answered.

    • As much preparation in advance should be given to the interviewees regarding subject areas in question and how best to answer but not what to answer.

    • Employees have the right to request that they not be tape-recorded.

Include Management Personnel

  • The closing conference should include the company representative and any other management personnel that were involved.

  • Full cooperation should be taken with whatever the OSHA Compliance Officer says.

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions! The OSHA Compliance Officer should cite the specific standard and provide the classification for any proposed violations that are found. The cost of the penalty should be shared as well.

  • Do not attempt to argue or settle citations during the closing conference. There will be an opportunity to challenge any statements at another time.

  • Avoid admitting violations or recognizing hazards.

  • Take good notes!

  • Inform the OSHA Compliance Officer where to send any citations.

Escort Out of Building

  • Once the closing conference is complete the company representative should escort the OSHA Compliance Officer out of the building.

Keep All Documentation

  • It is important to keep the contact information and other documentation provided by the OSHA representative.

In summary, it is important to understand how to respond to an unexpected visit from OSHA. By having a plan in place, being familiar with what to expect, and knowing your rights, an inspection can be a lot easier and less painful.

Be sure to remember that being friendly, polite and cooperative goes a long way when dealing with an investigation. It does not make a lot of sense to make a potentially bad situation a lot worse by failing to act in an appropriate manner. 


Prepare for an OSHA Unannounced Visit

KERAMIDA is a full-service Security, Environmental, Health and Safety consulting firm that has many years of experience pertaining to safety compliance. KERAMIDA can develop a comprehensive Health and Safety program for you that includes establishing site specific plans and procedures, providing necessary training, and identifying hazards and other potential violations within an organization.

Take the first step and schedule a third-party safety audit with one of KERAMIDA’s experienced safety consultants. Or call us at (800) 508-8034 to speak with a member of our safety compliance team today.

Blog Author


Andrew Tirmenstein
Senior Project Manager, Security, Health and Safety Services

Contact Andrew at