WHAT DOES AN EMPLOYER NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OSHA’S WALK-AROUND INSPECTION?

By Robert G. Chadwick, Jr., Managing Member, Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC.

During an OSHA inspection, the agency will conduct a physical inspection of the employer’s operations to gather relevant evidence.

When Does the Walk-Around Inspection Take Place? 

A walk-around inspection will generally take place after the opening conference and OSHA’s review of the employer’s records.

How Long is the Walk-Around Inspection?

There is no time limit on the walk-around inspection but the inspection should not be so long as to unreasonably disrupt the employer’s operation.

What is the Permissible Scope of the Walk-Around Inspection?

As previously noted in the December 6, 2015 post entitled “What Does an Employer Need to Know About an OSHA Opening Conference?”, the scope of the walk-around inspection is generally determined during the opening conference of an OSHA inspection.  Anything which is in plain sight to OSHA during the walk-around inspection, however, can be the subject of a later citation.

What Determines the Manner and Route of the Walk-Around Inspection? 

As previously noted in the December 6, 2015 post entitled “What Does an Employer Need to Know About an OSHA Opening Conference?”, the manner and route of the walk-around inspection can be discussed between the employer and OSHA during the opening conference.  Otherwise, the Compliance Safety & Health Officer (“CSHO”) will determine the manner and route subject to the following considerations: (1) the availability of the management representative or employee representative who will be accompanying the CSHO, (2) compliance with the employer’s safety and health rules and procedures, and (3) avoidance of unreasonable disruption of the employer’s operations.

Who Can Participate in the Walk-Around Inspection?

One management representative at a time and one employee representative at a time have the right to accompany OSHA during the walk-around inspection; the management representative and employee management can be substituted during the course of the inspection.  OSHA may be represented by more than one government official during the walk-around inspection, but one CSHO will generally lead the inspection.

What Does OSHA Do During the Walk-Around Inspection?

For a substantial part of the walk-around inspection, OSHA will be simply visually observing the health and safety conditions of the workplace and taking notes.  OSHA will also be collecting physical evidence.

Photographs:  Subject to any prior understanding as to the protection of the employer’s trade secrets, OSHA may photograph the employer’s workers and work operations.

Audio and Video Recordings: Subject to any prior understanding as to the protection of the employer’s trade secrets, OSHA may conduct audio and video recordings of the employer’s workers and work  operations.

Samples:  OSHA may collect air, water and chemical samples, and swipe samples from workplace surfaces.

Monitoring:  OSHA may monitor or take instrument readings as to employee exposures to toxic fumes, contaminants, chemicals, gases, dusts, radioactivity, etc.

Measurements:  OSHA may take measurements of lighting and noise levels, as well as any measurements of height or distance which may be relevant to an OSHA standard.

Questions:  OSHA may also question both managerial and non-management employees as to observable work conditions and operations.

Does OSHA Provide Feedback During the Walk-Around Inspection?

OSHA will normally, but not always, advise the employer’s management representative of the existence of workplace hazards which can be immediately or quickly abated.

 

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