Back in March, we answered five frequently asked questions related to OSHA inspections. We received so much positive feedback from that post, and so many requests to address additional OSHA questions that we decided to launch a monthly series here on the OSHA Law Update blog with posts dedicated to your OSHA Frequently Asked Questions. For each of the posts in this OSHA FAQ Series, we have included both a text response and a video/webinar response with slides and audio.
In this post, OSHA FAQ #4, we address a question regarding establishing an OSHA Inspection Team, including what roles should be designated and how to prepare the team for an unexpected visit from OSHA.
QUESTION: To best prepare for an unannounced OSHA Inspection, my Company is assembling an “Inspection Team” to be ready to manage a visit from OSHA. What are the different roles that we should include on the Team, and what are the responsibilities for which we should train the various team members?
OSHA conducts approximately 95% of its “Discovery” during the inspection phase (not the subsequent Contest stage), and uses the Discovery it obtains during inspections to determine whether violations are present and can be supported in potential citations. Accordingly, it is critical for employers to be prepared to manage the flow of information to OSHA during an inspection.
Accordingly, one of the most important steps every employer should take to prepare for an OSHA Inspection, and to ensure the inspection process goes smoothly once an OSHA compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) does arrive, is to designate certain personnel to fill specific roles on an Inspection Team. This will help you respond quickly when OSHA starts an inspection, have better controls in place to manage the flow of information during the inspection, such as better:
- Control over the entire scope of the inspection;
- Organization and care in the document production process;
- Preparation and representation of employees and managers during inspection interviews;
- Ability to capture duplicate evidence; i.e., side-by-side photographs, samples, and other physical evidence, and a complete copy set of documents produced to OSHA; and
- Control over what parts of your facility the CSHO observes during his walkaround inspection.
To accomplish these goals, we recommend that you assign, in advance of any inspection, the following Inspection Team roles, and train the assigned team members in all of the related employers’, employees’, and OSHA’s rights, as well as inspection strategies, related to their assigned roles on the Inspection Team:
1. Principal Spokesperson.
- The spokesperson is the team leader and point person for OSHA during the inspection.
- It is the Principal Spokesperson to manage the overall inspection, from communicating decisions to OSHA about consenting to the inspection or demanding a warrant, to negotiating the scope of the inspection, and laying the ground rules for document production and interviews.
- This role is generally covered by your outside OSHA counsel, Corporate Safety Director, or another Senior Management representative. The inspection should not be permitted to begin until the Principal Spokesperson is on-site (see our earlier post regarding delaying the start of an OSHA inspection to await your inspection representative).
2. Document Coordinator.
- Managing the document production during the inspection is perhaps the most important role.
- The Document Coordinator should manage the entire document production process, including: (a) being designated as the sole authorized person to accept a document request (always in writing) from OSHA; (b) coordinating with company and third party representatives to gather responsive documents; (c) reviewing documents for responsiveness, and to determine whether they contain privileged or business confidential information; (d) processing the documents with Bates and Business Confidential labels; (e) preparing duplicate copies for the Company to keep; (f) producing the documents to OSHA; and (g) tracking the status of all document requests on a Document Control Log.
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