Understanding the OSHA Inspection Process

Understanding the OSHA Inspection Process

The following is an overview of what to expect during an active OSHA Inspection or Mock OSHA Inspection.


 To provide a general understanding of:

  • Inspection types
  • What generates an inspection
  • Procedures of a compliance inspection
  • Rights and responsibilities of employers and employees
  • What happens after an inspection


Inspection Types/Priorities

  • Imminent danger
  • Fatality/catastrophe
  • Complaints
  • Referrals
  • Follow-up
  • Programmed


  • Special Emphasis Programs (SEP)
  • Health Hazards
  • Long Term Care
  • Logging/Arboriculture
  • Sawmills, Veneer, Manufactured Home and Other Wood Products
  • Construction
  • Food Manufacturing

Workplace Entry


  • Normal working hours
  • Credentials
  • Refusal
  • Interference
  • Special situations
    • Inspect on 2nd/3rd shift
    • Security clearance
    • Sampling

Opening Conference


  • Purpose and scope
  • Records inspection
  • Walk around representatives
  • Trade secrets


Walk Around Inspection

  • Scope
  • Program evaluation
  • Safety/health inspection
  • Interviews
  • Photographs


Closing Conference

  • Discuss findings and potential alleged violations
  • Employer and employee rights and responsibilities
  • Form 59


After the Inspection

  • Citations or in compliance
  • Abatement
  • Violation types
  • Penalties
  • Informal conference
  • Contestment
  • Discrimination




  • Issuance
    • Received by certified mail
  • Posting
    • Three days or until the hazards are abated, whichever is longer





  • Date-extension
  • OSHA Form 2D
  • Follow-up inspection



Types of OSHA Violations

  • Serious

» “Deemed to exist in the place of employment if there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.…”

  • Non-serious

» “Situations where the accident or illness that would be most likely to result from a hazardous condition would probably not cause death or serious physical harm….”


  • Willful
    • When evidence shows either an intentional violation of the act or plain indifference to its
  • Criminal-Willful
    • The employer willfully violates any standard which causes death of an employee and is found
  • Repeat
    • The employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar
  • Failure to Abate
    • The employer has not corrected a previously cited violation which has become final


Hazard Assessments



  • Most likely an injury or illness resulting from exposure



» Number of employees exposed

» Frequency and duration of exposure

» Employee distance from the hazard

» Other factors

Maximum Penalties

  • Willful – $70,000
  • Serious – $7,000 (*exception)
  • Repeat – $7,000 (x2, x5, x10)
  • Failure to Abate – $7,000/day
  • Non-serious – may have monetary value


Penalty Adjustment Factors



(# of Employees)

Safety and Health Programs0%, 10%, 25%, 40%



Informal Conference

  • Time frame
  • Post request
  • Settlement agreement – posted
  • Notice of amended citations
  • Notice of no change


You May Contest

  • Any part of citation
  • Written
  • Time frame
  • Administrative Law Judge
  • OSH Review Commission



  • It is unlawful to discriminate against employees who file safety or health complaints or request an OSHA inspection.



Other Issues

  • Possible Criminal penalties



  • Inspection types
  • What generates an inspection
  • Procedures of a compliance inspection
  • Rights and responsibilities of employers and employees


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