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Managing an OSHA Inspection: Answers to Five Frequently Asked Questions

OSHA Law Update (03/08/12) Eric Conn

When the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration unexpectedly shows up to begin an inspection and the employer’s representative whom the employer prefers to manage the OSHA inspection is not present at the workplace, the employer can request that the agency’s officer return at a later time or wait a reasonable amount of time until the employer’s chosen inspection representative is available.

OSHA’s Field Operations Manual explains that the agency believes waiting approximately one hour is a reasonable amount of time to delay the start of an inspection to wait for the employer’s selected representative to become available. However, unless the agency’s representative has a warrant or other exigent circumstances exist—such as imminent danger in plain view—the employer can refuse to consent to the inspection until its chosen representative arrives, so OSHA may not proceed with the inspection without obtaining a warrant, which generally takes at least a couple of days.

Additionally, in the absence of a related special emphasis program, a warrant, or a hazard in plain view, OSHA cannot expand the scope of a complaint-based inspection beyond the location and hazard identified in the complaint without the employer’s consent. The employer should insist that the inspection be limited to only that location.