Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is authorized to conduct workplace inspections to determine whether employers are complying with standards issued by the Agency for safe and healthful workplaces. OSHA also enforces Section 5(a)(1) of the Act, known as the General Duty Clause, which requires that every working man and woman must be provided with a safe and healthful workplace. Workplace inspections are performed by OSHA compliance safety and health officers who are knowledgeable and experienced in the occupational safety and health field and who are trained in the OSHA standards and in the recognition of safety and health hazards. Similarly, states with their own occupational safety and health programs conduct inspections using qualified State compliance safety and health officers.
Workplace inspections are performed by OSHA compliance officers who are knowledgeable and experienced in the occupational safety and health field and who are trained in OSHA standards and in the recognition of safety and health hazards. Similarly, states with their own occupational safety and health programs conduct inspections using qualified state compliance safety and health officers.
Inspections are usually conducted without advance notice. In fact, alerting an employer without proper authorization in advance of an OSHA inspection can bring a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a six-month jail term. This is true for OSHA compliance officers as well as state inspectors.
There are, however, special circumstances under which OSHA may give notice to the employer, but such a notice will normally be less than 24 hours. These circumstances include:
Imminent danger situations which require correction as soon as possible;
Inspections which must take place after regular business hours or which require special preparation;
Cases where notice is required to assure that the employer and employee representative or other personnel will be present;
Cases where an inspection must be delayed for more than 5 working days when there is good cause; and
Situations in which the OSHA area director determines that advance notice would produce a more thorough or effective inspection.
Employers who receive advance notice of an inspection must inform their employees' representative or arrange for OSHA to do so.
If an employer refuses to admit an OSHA compliance officer or if an employer attempts to interfere with the inspection, the Agency will take appropriate legal action.
Based on the 1978 Supreme Court ruling of Marshall v. Barlow's Inc., OSHA usually may not conduct warrantless inspections without valid consent. The Agency may, however, inspect after acquiring a judicially authorized search warrant based on administrative probable cause or evidence of a violation.