Preparing for a Surprise OSHA Audit

You never know when a safety inspector will show up, so it’s vital to be ready at all times

Interested in Safety?

Get Safety articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Safety + Get Alerts

OSHA audits can happen at any time, sometimes with little or no advance warning.

Because you never know for sure when an inspector will show up at your place of business, it’s imperative to be ready at all times.

1) Know what to expect.

First things first: If an inspector does arrive at your place of business, ask them to show you their credentials. If they are unable to do so, or if you have any concerns at all, don’t hesitate to call the area OSHA director for confirmation.

Once the inspector arrives, it’s OK to put them in a waiting room or conference room for a few minutes while you alert others, informing them that an audit is taking place.

Most OSHA inspectors will begin with a quick huddle or conference, during which they should explain the reason for their presence. It can be helpful to know whether it’s a random inspection, or a response to some specific complaint or incident.

When talking with your inspector, always be professional and polite but don’t overshare or volunteer more information than is requested.

2) Know your rights.

Be advised of certain rights you have as a business owner. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to consult your attorney. A few specific rights to note:

  • You have a right to keep all employee interviews private, as opposed to having interviews conducted in front of the entire team.
  • You have the right to keep the inspection during a reasonable timeframe (that is, during your normal operating hours). You should not have to stay late, or ask employees to stay late, to accommodate the inspector.
  • Your inspector should keep trade secrets as such, handling photos and documents with discretion.

3) Assign a point person.

Someone at your company should be responsible for meeting with the inspector and guiding them through your facility. This might be the business owner, a safety officer, or someone else. Just make sure it’s someone who knows where all relevant company policies and documents are kept. 

Additionally, it might be wise to select a backup person, just in case the normal point person is out sick when the inspector comes knocking.

4) Be diligent in training.

One of the best ways to prepare for surprise inspections is to make sure employees are regularly trained on how to assess, mitigate, and respond to hazards at the job site.

Also be sure that there is evidence of your training throughout the workplace, specifically that up-to-date OSHA signage is prominently displayed.

Finally, be sure to keep good records of your training and have them readily available when the inspector shows up.

5) Perform audits of your own.

One last way to be ready for inspections is to hold inspections of your own. Perform routine audits of your workplace and all equipment. Interview employees about safety protocols. Double check your signage. Be vigilant, ensuring you find and address any issues before the inspector comes calling.

About the Author

Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.