Knock-Knock. Who's There? Your OSHA Inspector...

jwilson's picture

There's a classic Monty Python's Flying Circus episode in which characters periodically burst into the scene yelling, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

While it's not nearly as daunting as the true Spanish Inquisition (nor as enjoyable as a Monty Python skit) an OSHA inspection is often just as surprising.

Inspections can be triggered by any number of things ranging from poor safety performance to simple random selection. At our Eden Prairie facility, we received a visit from our state OSHA inspector in October of 2010. Eden Prairie has had a good safety record, but when our name came up on a randomly selected list, we were paid an unannounced visit one morning. OSHA inspections are rarely communicated to the site to be visited in advance, which means they typically carry an element of surprise.

Fortunately, our safety record at Eden Prairie is excellent. We have a long-standing safety committee and good processes in place to keep our workplace safe for our employees. Though we were surprised by the inspection, the only drawback was that it took some time to gather the necessary documents that the inspector was looking for. After a quick review of our safety plan and our training records, we took the inspector on a tour of the production area. She spent about 30 minutes on the shop floor after which we had a wrap-up meeting.

In all, the inspector was impressed with our facility and complimented our processes and practices. We received an official letter of inspection a few weeks later indicating the date of inspection and that no citations were found.

For anyone who might be subject to an OSHA inspection, here are a few things that I would consider important:

  • Make sure you have up-to-date training records and a clear process for documenting training, especially "Right to Know" training or HAZCOM training.
  • Be sure you have and can provide a copy of your written safety program.
  • Make sure the person who meets with the inspector has a decent overall understanding of critical safety topics like HAZCOM, MSDS, Fire Safety, etc.
  • Follow the OSHA requirements for data posting at your site.
  • And most of all, be open and accommodating. In the end, the inspection is intended to make sure that your site is a safe place to work. Even if a citation is found (and a fine assessed) it should be seen as a positive thing to improve the safety of your facility.