How to Handle an OSHA Inspection at Your Worksite

On January 12th, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced the new maximum penalties for 2023 that could be assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The maximum fine is now $15,625 per violation, for both serious and other-than-serious violations. For willful or repeated violations, the new maximum penalty is now $156,259. With OSHA ramping up enforcement and penalties rising, companies must know how to deal with worksite inspections. In this article, our construction law attorneys highlight some of the critical things to know about how to handle an OSHA inspection at a worksite in North Carolina. 

Background: Understanding OSHA’s Role in the Workplace Inspection Process

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 empowers OSHA to inspect workplaces and issue citations and financial penalties when violations are observed. Here is an overview of how the OSHA inspection process works for companies in the construction industry:  

  • Inspection Target: OSHA starts by selecting sites to inspect. Federal regulations prevent OSHA from warning companies about inspections. They must be a “surprise.” Inspections may be prompted by a complaint or referral or may be part of a planned program. 
  • Opening Conference: OSHA safety inspectors are officially called Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs). They generally start inspections by entering the premises and introducing themselves. An employer can ask questions during the opening introduction, such as about the inspection’s prompting, nature, and/or scope. 
  • Walkthrough of the Worksite: The inspector will then conduct a walkthrough of the worksite to assess compliance with OSHA standards. The inspector may observe work processes, interview employees, and take photographs or measurements as needed. 
  • Closing Conference: At the conclusion of the inspection, the CSHO will hold a closing conference with the employer or their representative. They may provide their initial impressions about potential safety hazards. However, they will not declare anything a “violation” at this point.
  • Penalties (If Applicable): The inspector may issue citations and penalties if violations are found. Federal law requires OSHA to issue any penalties for a worksite inspection to be issued within six months of the date of the inspection. 
  • Appeal (If Applicable): Construction companies in North Carolina can appeal OSHA penalties. If the employer wishes to contest the citations or penalties, they may file an appeal with OSHA’s Review Commission.

How to Handle an OSHA Inspection at a Construction Site in North Carolina

Dealing with an OSHA inspection at your construction worksite can be stressful, frustrating, and confusing. You can put yourself and your company in the best position to navigate the process by taking a few simple steps. Here are four key steps to take when dealing with OSHA inspectors: 

  1. Prepare and Train Personnel: To handle an OSHA inspection at a construction site in North Carolina, it is essential to prepare and train personnel in advance. This includes reviewing OSHA regulations and company policies and ensuring that employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities. It is also a good idea to have a designated representative, such as a safety manager, who will be responsible for communicating with the OSHA inspector during the inspection. 
  2. Always Stay Polite and Professional: During the inspection, it is important to remain polite and professional at all times. Be respectful and cooperative with the inspector, and do not become defensive or argumentative. Keep in mind that the inspector is simply doing their job and is not there to penalize your company. You may disagree with their findings—but that has to be dealt with through a formal process. 
  3. Limit the Scope of the Inspection When Possible: An OSHA inspection should be limited to areas that are relevant to the complaint or referral that prompted the inspection. One of the best ways to limit the scope of an OSHA inspection is to pause work while the inspector is present on the premises. 
  4. Seek a Legal Representative from an OSHA Inspection Attorney: Professional representation can make the difference. You should consult a North Carolina construction lawyer for help preparing for an OSHA inspection and appealing a workplace safety citation. 

Contact Our North Carolina Construction Law Attorneys Today

At Anderson Jones, PLLC, North Carolina construction law attorneys have the professional skills and legal expertise to help employers navigate the OSHA inspection process. If you have any specific questions about OSHA inspections or OSHA penalties, we are here to help. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. With an office in Raleigh, we serve communities throughout the region.