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Published December 9th, 2020

Why is OSHA Inspection Important?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. This law created the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe working conditions, by setting and enforcing standards. OSHA also provides information, training, and assistance to employers and workers.

Under the OSH Act, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Through the use of OSHA compliance checklists, employers and employees can help each other identify hazards, minimize risk, and improve overall safety in the workplace.

This article briefly discusses the following:

What Does OSHA Look for During an Inspection?

OSHA inspections generally focus on and prioritize workplace sites or areas that are considered the most hazardous. In the same vein, the agency keeps an eye out for potential hazards that are often overlooked, especially in areas of the workplace that are deemed safe and on equipment that are considered harmless. Complaints received from employees, organizations, other agencies, and the media receive elevated attention and often trigger spontaneous OSHA safety audits. Serious injuries and fatalities, especially, must be reported to OSHA immediately. Based on this data, OSHA determines whether or not certain jobs or industries are hazardous or high-risk. These high-risk jobs are prioritized by OSHA and have a high chance for more frequent, and often random, inspections. On the other hand, organizations with 10 or fewer employees need not worry because they are exempted from random OSHA safety audits.

All businesses, regardless of industry should have safety as their top priority. OSHA inspections should be treated as safeguards to safety precautions already in place, not as threats to scare organizations into creating an effective safety culture. Knowing what to expect from an OSHA safety audit and going through the preparation process will help an organization reduce accident rates and review existing safety protocols.

What are the 3 Parts of an OSHA Inspection?

During an inspection, the OSHA inspector may ask some preliminary questions; it’s vital that a company representative answer these questions as truthfully and accurately as possible. Even if uncertain of the overall safety of the organization, it’s advisable to let the inspector continue as scheduled. Trying to delay an inspection will raise red flags and will prompt the OSHA inspector to come back and conduct a more comprehensive inspection.

An OSHA inspection is divided into three main parts or phases:

  • Opening conference
    All OSHA safety audits start with the inspector detailing the purpose of the inspection and how it is to be conducted. If triggered by a complaint, this is where copies of the formal complaint are presented. Inspections may include employee interviews, which could be done privately or in the presence of managers, depending on the preferences of the employee.
  • Facility walkthrough
    The OSHA inspector will walk through the facility and take notes and photographs for documentation. The company can choose an employee representative to be present during the walkthrough, but it is not required. Inspections are not limited to any one area of the workplace, regardless of whether or not it was based on a specific complaint. Finding a violation in open view will prompt an OSHA inspector to expand the inspection with the permission of the company.
  • Closing conference
    After a thorough walkthrough of the facility, the OSHA inspector should share findings during the closing conference, including any violations found or unsafe areas or practices observed. Employee representatives should review the inspector’s recommendations and correct any deficiencies.

How to Pass an OSHA Inspection

Establishing a strong company safety culture ensures that you need not worry about random OSHA safety audits. It would not hurt, however, to always be prepared so you know how to pass an OSHA safety inspection. The following tips will help make inspections as seamless as possible:

  • Establish a process.
    Random inspections are not so random when you know what to do when an inspector shows up. Establish a procedure to be followed in case of OSHA inspections so that employees are prepared. Assign a representative to meet the inspector and accompany him or her while doing the facility walkthrough.
  • Keep necessary records at hand.
    Inspectors would want to look at your records so it’s important to keep them organized and accessible. The most important thing, however, is to ensure that you’re keeping complete and accurate records so that you’re prepared for random OSHA safety audits.
  • Answer all questions as accurately as possible.
    OSHA inspections can make employees nervous and make them afraid to say the “wrong” things. Feeling apprehensive is natural, but it’s important to instruct employees that honesty is the best policy during an inspection. Withholding information will backfire and have dire consequences for the organization.
  • Address issues as soon as possible.
    The inspector will point out violations and possible citations; don’t wait for the official citation and address issues immediately after the OSHA safety audit. If you see any other problems not covered in the inspection, address those issues as well. You’re also free to ask the inspector questions so you know how to address specific problem areas.
  • Provide the necessary training programs.
    OSHA regulations can change through time so it’s important o keep abreat of the latest rules and policies. Provide appropriate training to employees and update safety materials and policies regularly. OSHA compliance is easily maintained if everyone in the organization knows what to do and how to do it.

Complete OSHA Compliance Checklists on Your Mobile Device

Create your own or download a template below. From OSHA Eye Wash Station Inspection Checklists to Daily Forklift Inspection Forms, you can use a tool like iAuditor to help complete your regular inspections, quickly and easily.

Generate and View Reports

Create transparency through your organization by creating and sharing PDF reports quickly and easily. Get real-time data to help identify areas that need attention, and track improvements over time.

Case Study: Level 10 Construction

The 181 Fremont project is an 800 ft., 54-story high-rise that will become the second tallest and most unique building in San Francisco’s financial district. Level 10 Construction’s goal was to complete the building on time, on budget and most importantly maintain the quality and safety of the structure and people who work on the project. Read more case studies.


Alexis dela Cruz

SafetyCulture staff editor

Alex has been a professional writer and editor since 2007 and has worked with website developers, online retailers, and medical and healthcare professionals in the development of web content, content for blogs, and newsletter and manuscript content, respectively.