OSHA Inspection Defense Lawyers
Preparing For OSHA Workplace Inspections
When OSHA knocks on the door, employers all too often allow an inspection
of their worksite, and then wait for days, weeks, or months to learn whether
they will be cited for violations. It’s not until they receive
citations when they call an attorney for help. However, working with attorneys long
beforeany citation, or any inspection, actually occurs is a far better
approach to protecting a business.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C., we advise clients to call our team
before OSHA arrives – whether that’s proactively during times of compliance and
smooth-sailing, or immediately after workplace injuries,
catastrophes, and other potential inspection triggers.
Backed by decades of experience, our OSHA inspection attorneys help employers
navigate all phases of the inspection process, tailor our work to employers’
unique circumstances, and deliver immediate support when there are timely
issues at hand. Whether you need counsel to construct a comprehensive
compliance plan, have an impending inspection, or have already been cited, the best time
to call is now.
We’ve counseled businesses across Houston, the state of Texas, and
beyond for over 30 years. Call (713) 489-2028 or contact us onlinefor a consultation with our firm.
Is Your Business at Risk of an OSHA Citation?
While any employer can be cited for
OSHA violations of safety regulations, OSHA inspections are especially common at certain
types of businesses. Our lawyers have represented manufacturers, employers
with warehouses, employers in the food manufacturing industry, in construction,
roofing, trenching, excavation, refurbishing, scrap metal, rail industry,
health care sector, and similar businesses in which workers are routinely
exposed to danger.
Common dangers our firm has experience with include:
- Fall protection
- Scaffolding or other risks of falls
- Electrical exposure
- Heavy equipment
- Trenches or holes
- Confined spaces
Employers must comply with a complex maze of OSHA regulations, and some
must comply with General Industry requirements or industry-specific guidance,
such as those applicable to construction. HC understands OSHA's safety
standards and what inspectors look for during these and other inspections.
Common Reasons for OSHA Inspections
Inspectors may appear at a worksite for several reasons, including:
- An injury or death on the site;
- A complaint from an employee or former employee;
To determine whether an employer is in compliance after a previous citation;
- Random inspections.
OSHA Inspection Process & Procedures
Site inspections are a crucial tool for OSHA – both to achieve its
objective of protecting workers from potential risks, and generate additional
revenue. In short, they’re not going anywhere, and employers would
be wise to familiarize themselves with the process, procedures, and what
Though inspections can vary widely depending on the reason, employer, and
industry, OSHA inspections generally begin to form with certain processes
and procedures, including:
Phone & Fax: OSHA has finite resources, and therefore must allocate its attention judiciously
to the most concerning matters. To reduce caseload, local OSHA offices
may expedite inspections through the use of phone and fax procedures,
or take a different approach to complaints which are objectively low risk,
such as notifying an employer, and following up with a request for a response
within 10 days. Employers should furnish a thorough, timely response to
these requests, and provide relevant evidence of correction / compliance,
including photos, invoices for safety materials, or proof of worker training.
Many phone or fax procedures, if they’re being used by the office
where an employer is located, can be closed with an employer response.
OSHA Complaint Letter: When OSHA area offices don’t utilize phone or fax procedures, or
consider situations to be higher risk, they will take more action. This
could mean sending an employer a formal complaint letter. Employers should
still respond in a thorough and timely manner, albeit by more traditional
means than phone or fax.
While employers may be able to avoid on-site inspections by complying with
the procedures above, OSHA can still choose to conduct inspections nearly
at will. The OSHA Field Inspection Reference Manual (FIRM), as well as
state manuals, provide guidance on the inspection process and the duties
of Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO). Typically, that means:
Opening conferences where credentials are presented and the inspection procedure explained;
Records review, where safety records and other relevant documentation is requested;
Walk-around inspection where officers gather potential evidence for citations, including measurements
Employee and officer interviews and informal questioning;
Closing Conferences where officers conclude inspections (or delay, if more information is needed)
and provide employers with opportunities to ask questions.
As soon as an OSHA inspector appears at your work site, our OSHA inspection
defense attorneys at HC can gather evidence, answer questions, and present
your position to OSHA. We can also be present during interviews with management
and employees, and prepare a defense against any potential citations that
We provide representation at all stages of the inspection and citation
process, including administrative hearings and appeals.
Managing OSHA Inspections
OSHA is just one of many agencies which may have regulatory oversight over
a business. However, because their inspections are often unannounced,
and because penalties and
fines for citations can be steep, it becomes critical for employers to manage their businesses
properly. That means proactively preparing and having a strategy in place
to manage an inspection, as well as taking appropriate action during an
inspection to place themselves in a favorable legal position.
Should an OSHA inspector arrive at your business, consider the following
Wait for Management Personnel: It may behoove employers to establish policies to restrict admittance (i.e.
not allowing an opening conference or inspection) until pre-designated
management personnel are present. Employers can create and train workers
(including security or reception) on specific procedures in the event
OSHA arrives. Employers can also pre-designate an employee representative
to participate in inspections (especially in the absence of Union officials).
Determine the Cause for Inspection: Was the inspection based on a recent event? Is it part of a larger targeted
focus on certain industries? Was it the result of a media-reported matter
or complaint, or is it simply random? Well-prepared employers should be
able to determine the reason for an inspection intuitively, but should
nevertheless confirm with officials. Additionally, employers should determine
whether inspections are related to safety (which would be the case if
officers are safety specialists or compliance officers) or industrial
hygiene (in which case hygienist inspectors will conduct sampling, such
as noise monitoring, air sampling, etc.). Employers should perform sampling
of their own simultaneously to verify OSHA results.
Obtain Copies of Complaints: Most OSHA inspections stem from complaints, and employers should request
copies of the specific complaint from any inspector or compliance officer.
Names will not appear on complaints, and employers should not comment
about complaints or the party who they suspect filed them. Workers who
file complaints are protected against retaliation and discrimination by
the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA may also be assigned to conduct
investigations into discrimination / retaliation complaints for protected
whistleblowers; these inspections usually don’t have a physical inspection component.
Limit the Scope of Inspection: It’s a best practice to clearly define the scope of an inspection,
and compartmentalize inspections only to areas or departments where it
is necessary. Employers who willingly allow inspectors to tour facilities
or volunteer information can put themselves at risk for violations in
“plain view,” even if they are unknown to the employer, a
random or momentary occurrence, or unrelated to the underlying inspection.
For most inspections, employers can escort OSHA officers to target areas
via pre-designated or strategic routes. During both document review and
inspection walk-arounds, it’s important for employers to keep inspectors
focused on what’s relevant to the inspection.
Protect Your IP: As a firm with an active intellectual property practice, HC knows it is
crucial for employers to protect their most critical assets. OSHA is mandated
by law to protect the confidentiality of products, services, processes,
and other assets deemed to be trade secrets, and employers should be prepared
to verify trade secrets from the very moment OSHA officers arrive, and
send follow-up letters re-iterating the same following a site inspection.
Document, Document, Document:
Documentation is a crucial part of any comprehensive workplace compliance plan. That
means maintaining well-organized records (which will almost always be
reviewed by inspectors), having OSHA guidance posted, and showing materials
for training, emergencies, hazard communication, lockout/tagout, and other
safety plans. Documentation during an inspection can be just as important
as before one, which means employers, unless prohibited by security or
IP issues, should take photos and videos simultaneously with OSHA inspectors
during the walk-around inspection.
Post-Inspection Debrief: OSHA will interview employees during inspections, and while representatives
can be present during these interviews, employers should still have plans
for debriefing employees after OSHA leaves a worksite. This can provide
employers with insight regarding the scope of questioning, prepare them
for what lies ahead, and prepare employees for any follow-up.
Learn more about how to prepare for an OSHA inspection.
Experienced OSHA Inspection Lawyers at Hendershot Cowart P.C.
Whether you are preparing for the possibility of an inspection or you have
just received a citation, our law firm will provide you with the advice
and guidance you need. We serve clients throughout Texas. In addition
to our main offices in Houston, we have offices where we are available
by appointment in Galveston, Austin, and Corpus Christi.
Call us today at (713) 489-2028 or contact us online through our short, simple form.