Employee involvement in an OSHA inspection

By: Travis Rhoden

Publication: Workplace Safety Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 06/06/2022

No employer wants to go through an OSHA inspection. And, few employers really want the inspector talking to employees — if for no other reason than it interrupts work and, in many cases, can make the workers nervous.

That being said, employers have little to no control when it comes to worker involvement in OSHA inspections.

Following along on the inspection

The OSH Act gives the workers’ representative the right to accompany the OSHA inspector during the inspection. The representative will be chosen by the union (if there is one) or by the employees, never by the employer. If the employees are represented by more than one union, each union may choose a representative. (Normally, the representative of each union will not accompany the inspector for the entire inspection, but will join the inspection when it reaches the area where those union members work.)

Note: Where there is no union or employee representative, the OSHA inspector will talk confidentially with a reasonable number of workers during the course of the investigation.

Opening/closing meetings

Employees or their representative also have the right to take part in meetings with the inspector and the employer before and after the inspection is conducted.

Interviews of employees

Workers have a right to talk privately to the inspector on a confidential basis whether or not a workers’ representative has been chosen. It is very important that employers not attempt to be present for these interviews — this could be seen as interference.

Post inspection rights

Depending on the reason for the inspection, employees will have varying rights. If the inspection was the result of a complaint, OSHA will send a letter to the worker or worker representative who filed the complaint outlining the inspection findings, including citations and proposed penalties.

In addition, regardless of the reason for inspection, employers must post copies of any citations at or near the site of the violation. This assures that all workers who might be exposed to a hazard are aware of it and understand the need and the schedule for correction.

Note: The citation must remain posted until the violation(s) cited have been abated, or for three working days (excluding weekends and Federal holidays), whichever is longer. OSHA does allow employers to mark out or cover up the penalty dollar amounts.

Employees also have a right to object to any abatement date set for a violation. To do so, the employee(s) must mail a notice of contest to OSHA within 15 working days of the receipt by the employer of the citation.