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How to Survive an OSHA Inspection

An unannounced visit from an OSHA -- Occupational Safety and Health Administration -- officer can be an unpleasant surprise for a small business owner. Be prepared by knowing how OSHA inspections work.


  • Step 1: Take notes, providing a record of the officer's route, their comments, and photos taken during the inspection.
  • Step 2: Provide any records requested. Obtain them yourself without the officer going into the records storage area. Remain calm and polite during the inspection.
  • Step 3: Request a closing conference. Ask for a summary of the inspection. Convey your intent to fix any possible violation without admitting to any violation.
  • FACT: After a 2005 Texas refinery explosion killed 15 people, BP oil company pleaded guilty for failing to inform employees of explosion risks.
  • TIP: Answer the OSHA officer's questions truthfully, but don't offer information beyond the scope of the questions.
  • Step 4: Ask the right questions during an inspection. First, ask the officer to describe the purpose of the visit and the scope of the inspection.
  • Step 5: Choose a spokesperson to represent your business at an inspection. They should know OSHA regulations and all aspects of your business operations.
  • TIP: Train a backup in case your chosen spokesperson is unavailable for an unannounced OSHA inspection.
  • Step 6: Request a free on-site OSHA consultation. Separate from OSHA enforcement, this confidential inspection won't result in OSHA penalties.
  • Step 7: Go to OSHA's website. Read about the frequently cited OSHA standards that specifically apply to your type of business and your number of employees.

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