What to Expect During an OSHA Inspection: A Guide for Businesses

15 Apr 2024

Do you have an impending OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspection looming over you and your business? Don't worry; we feel those shivers, too. If you get nervous about these inspections because you don't know what they entail or don't fully grasp your rights, we understand, so we're here to help make this process easier and smoother.

Let’s break it down.

Lockers with cage fronts holding hard hats Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

Understanding OSHA Inspections:

When OSHA decides to inspect a workplace, it’s usually for one of three reasons:
1. Routine Inspections: OSHA conducts regular inspections of workplaces to ensure compliance with safety regulations. The tricky part is that these inspections are typically unannounced.
2. Complaint-Based Inspections: If an employee or someone else raises a concern about safety hazards in the workplace, OSHA may inspect in response to the complaint.
3. Incident-Based Inspections: If a serious accident or fatality occurs at a workplace, OSHA will investigate to determine the cause and whether or not any safety violations contributed to the incident.

What to Expect During an OSHA Inspection:

  1. Opening Conference: When OSHA arrives for an inspection, it usually starts by explaining the reason for the inspection. It then discusses the scope of the inspection, and reviews any relevant regulations.
  2. Walkaround: After the discussion, OSHA inspectors will walk around the workplace to identify potential hazards or other safety concerns. They may take photographs, measurements, and samples for their investigation.
  3. Employee Interviews: Depending on the reason for the visit, inspectors may also speak with various employees to gather information about workplace safety practices or any general concerns.
  4. Document Review: Inspectors will review documents such as safety policies, training records, and injury logs to ensure correct compliance with OSHA regulations.
  5. Closing Conference: After completing the inspection, OSHA will hold a closing conference to discuss the findings with the employer. Depending on what was discussed or discovered, they may issue citations for any violations seen during the inspection.

Employee Rights During an OSHA Inspection:

Employees, this isn't just about your employer; this is about you too! As an employee, you also have the right to ensure your safety and well-being during an OSHA inspection. Here are some fundamental rights you should be aware of:
1. Right to Accompany the Inspector: You have the right to accompany the OSHA inspector during the walkaround portion of the inspection, allowing you to point out any safety concerns directly to the inspector.
2. Right to Confidentiality: Your employer cannot retaliate against you for participating in an OSHA inspection or for raising safety concerns. Your identity as a complainant or witness should be kept confidential.
3. Right to Request a Private Interview: You have the right to request a private interview with the OSHA inspector if you wish to discuss safety concerns privately.
4. Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: If you believe that performing a task would put you in immediate danger, you have the right to refuse to do that work until the safety issue is addressed.
5. Right to Representation: You have the right to have a representative (such as a union representative or attorney) join you during any interviews or discussions with OSHA inspectors.
6. Right to Review Citations: If your employer receives citations for safety violations, you have the right to review those citations and any proposed penalties.
7. Right to Appeal: If you disagree with OSHA’s findings or citations, you, as the employer have the right to appeal the decision within a specified timeframe.


While the thought of an OSHA inspection may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that its primary goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of workers. We understand that it's not the most exciting undertaking, but by better understanding expectations and your rights, you can help contribute to a safer, smoother work environment for everyone.

If you need more information, www.osha.gov is a great place to start.