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Masonry Magazine: How to Handle an OSHA Visit

Updated: May 15, 2023

Masonry Magazine is an industry leader publication that targets news and concerns of the Masonry Industry. This article deals with an OSHA visit and how the contractor can make sure they are ready when it happens. Link is below.

Surprise! Unlike food health inspectors, OSHA does not give warnings, and they show up without notice! So how do you handle an inspection you are not expecting? Here are a few guidelines for the dreaded OSHA visit.

Be Prepared

Do not wait till the inspector shows up. You must prepare your team ahead of an inspection, and everyone should know what to do as soon as the inspector arrives. Don’t think it won’t happen to you. It is inevitable, so you must be prepared when it happens.

Have a designated person who will deal with the inspector one-on-one. They can be your safety person, a foreman, or anyone else on the job daily. Also, you need a backup person in case the original person is not there for some reason. These designated “greeters” should know where all of the necessary paperwork is located and be able to present them to the inspector. OSHA inspectors do not want to wait. Typically they will give you 1 hour to submit the proper paperwork. Any job more than 30 to 40 minutes away should have copies of all the required paperwork on the job site. Have your designated person keep them safely in the truck, or if a job trailer is available, keep them there for the project’s duration. You may also have them electronically available in the cloud or a dropbox that can be quickly sent to your designated person. The persons you select to be in charge of the OSHA visit should be trained in what to expect from the inspector and how to handle each visit stage.

Train Your Team

Training for a visit involves the entire team, and Toolbox talks are a good start. Make sure each person has access to the hazard analysis for every job you are working on. Make sure they understand every hazard and how to control the risk for each one. Ensure every employee has proper safety training and that training stays current. Everyone should also know how to use the appropriate PPE for each task. Preventing injury on the job is one step to ensuring that OSHA does not need to visit for an injury or death incident. However, since you can get a visit at any time, your team should be up to date on scaffolding and PPE inspection so that a surprise OSHA visit does not throw them off.

Keep Records Up To Date

Training your team is excellent, but if you do not keep immaculate records, it will not matter when OSHA shows up on the job. Training records for each week should be readily available, and any extra courses on safety an employee takes should also be on record. Besides the safety training records, OSHA will also want to look at other required documents. These may include hazard analysis sheets, workers’ compensation certificates, and any forms, including claims against your compensation. They may want to see proof of other required insurance. They will also likely want to see any internal audits, and if you had a third-party audit, they would like to see those and proof that you corrected any of the suggested changes.

Know The Steps Involved

Knowing what steps are involved and what your rights are will make you less stressed and the inspection much more manageable. So what can you expect?

They are obligated to show you their credentials. If they do not, you should ask for them. As soon as you ascertain who they are, it would be best to put them somewhere, such as a job trailer, so they can wait comfortably while you inform your company, the other employees, the jobsite supervisor, any vendors on site, and any other subcontractors. You may also gather the paperwork needed for the inspection during this time. Once you get back to the inspector, he will hold a short meeting before starting his assessment. This would be the time to ask why he is there. Is it just a random inspection? Was there a complaint? Is it in response to an injury or death report? If they say it is in response to an injury or death or a complaint was filed, immediately request your attorney be present and DO NOT allow any recording of any conversations!

The next step is the actual inspection. The inspector will initially walk the site. He will inspect scaffolding and equipment, take pictures and measurements, and may talk to employees. If he does speak to employees, he must do it away from the other employees, and your employees must know their rights. Again no recording should be allowed.

Be His Shadow

Your assigned person should follow the inspector everywhere. You take a picture of the same thing if he takes a picture. If he measures something, you measure it as well. Take notes of everything he looks at, touches, and inspects.

After his initial inspection, you may now ask any questions you may have and what will be his next steps. Remember that all reviews must be done within six months. He can come back weekly or every day for that entire period, so you will be dealing with this inspector for quite some time. Be respectful but stand up for your and your employee’s rights.

Know Your Rights

You have rights, as do your company and all of your employees. Make sure you know and understand what they are before an inspection happens. Employees can but are not required to speak with the inspector. If they decide to talk with the inspector, they should be honest and polite when answering questions. Employees are also not required to sign witness statements. If they do, they should read them carefully before signing and get a copy. I will mention again that they shouldn’t be recorded if they decide to speak with the inspector. Finally, they have the right to be interviewed by someone who speaks the language of their heart, their native tongue. If the inspector or his assistant does not speak the language, they will have to return at a later date with someone who does.

An OSHA inspection can be a very stressful time for all involved. If you keep calm, know your rights, and have your paperwork in order, it can be much less stressful for you and your crew.


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