OSHA Inspections and Document Requests

OSHA Inspections and Document Requests

Over the last several years ORC HSE has received enquiries from member companies in regard to excessive document requests at the beginning of an OSHA inspection.  In some cases the requests by the Agency for documents and copies of programs will run two or more pages in length.

BY: RICHARD FAIRFAX, ORC HSE CONSULTANT

These requests are provided to the employer during the opening conference.  The concerns raised by ORC HSE member companies is that the requests seem open-ended, are very long, and contain requests for information that do not appear to be at all related to the reason and scope of the OSHA inspection as explained by the compliance officer.  According to these companies the time involved to produce the items asked for would be excessive, especially for a limited scope inspection.

To be clear, OSHA certainly has the right to make routine type requests for information and some requests for documentation will take place on each and every OSHA inspection.  For example, on every OSHA inspection the Agency will ask for a copy of the hazard communication program as well as up to three years of OSHA 300 recordkeeping information.  In some situations the Agency may ask for five years of OSHA 300 information.  Additionally, depending on the reason for the inspection, OSHA may ask for other programs and documentation.

For example:

If the inspection is initiated in regard to a complaint about personal protective equipment (PPE), OSHA could be expected to ask for a copy of the PPE program and any PPE assessments that were conducted;

If the inspection was initiated under OSHA’s Amputation National Emphasis Program, one can expect OSHA to ask for a copy of the lock-out and tag-out program;

If the OSHA inspection was in regard to air contaminant exposures, you can expect OSHA to ask for any monitoring of airborne contaminants the company conducted as well as its respiratory protection program; and

If the inspection was of a nursing home, you can expect OSHA to request a copy of the Bloodborne Pathogens Program and perhaps the ergonomics program.

These are all legitimate routine requests based upon the type and scope of the inspection.  But, what does an employer do if they view the document request as extensive, goes beyond “routine”, and does not appear related to the reason for the OSHA visit?

ORC HSE does not know if OSHA is routinely making these extensive document requests on all inspections, but certainly enough of these requests from different parts of the country have come to attention of ORC HSE to raise our concerns.  As an example, an ORC HSE member company recently received the following request for documentation. This request was made in regard to a small complaint consisting of a few complaint items:

The correct legal business name, address, telephone number, and fax number for the company (main headquarters or corporate office);

The address for the site location for the company;

The Tax ID number for the company and any contractors onsite;

Total number of employees at the site, at the main office, for the company in total (corporate wide);

Union? And if there is a union the name, local, business agent, and lead contact person;

All employee training certifications and documentation (tests, video titles, booklets, and so forth);

Training certification and documentation for PPE, fall hazards, and general safety and health;
Copy of the hazard communication program and training documentation;

Provide a copy of all health and safety audits and inspections for the job site. If provided, who conducted the audit/inspection. Please provide the last six audits/inspections for the site;

Provide the names of all/any contractors/subcontractors onsite;

Provide a copy of the company’s safety manual/policy or any applicable sections of the employee handbook;

OSHA forms for recordkeeping and recording injuries and illnesses (OSHA 300 logs and 300A summaries for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017;

Copy of the company’s disciplinary policy and any actions with the last 12 months;

Copy of any contracts with contractors;

Copy of the written workplace violence program;

All training documentation;

Copy of Ergonomic assessments;

PPE assessments;

Copy of the written safety and health program;

Forklift procedures;

Copy of forklift training documentation; and

Copy of the forklift maintenance records.

ORC HSE was surprised to see such an extensive document request for this inspection and others, especially on a limited complaint inspection.  In this case, the requests for information on numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8 (perhaps 7) seemed reasonable and we would expect the employer to provide the information.  One of the complaint items did list lifting as a complaint item so the ergonomic assessment request (No. 17) was legitimate as well.  But the rest of the items, in our mind, is just plain excessive.  In fact item No. 9 – requesting a copy of all audits and inspections violates OSHA’s own policy as follows – OSHA issued a “Final Policy Concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Treatment of Voluntary employer Safety and Health Self-Audits.”   That Policy Notice was published in the Federal Register on July 28th, 2000 (Federal Register NO.  46498-46503 – Docket No.  W-100).

ORC HSE’s advice for such extensive requests is to first examine the request and determine what is reasonable and fair – remembering that there are some things OSHA will routinely ask for and some things based on the nature and scope of the inspection that OSHA will additionally request.  These, in our mind, are legitimate and an employer should not balk at providing them.

As to other items requested, our advice would be to first talk to the compliance officer about what is reasonable and why he/she needs all the additional information.  Try to find out why the information is needed and if the compliance officer actually will review it, and explain that while you want to be cooperative, you do not think it appropriate to provide all that information.  You may also want to explain to the compliance officer what information in the request you regard as excessive.  Ask the compliance officer to restrict the request to just what is necessary based upon the inspection scope.  If the compliance officer insists that they need all the additional information then we would suggest contacting the Area Director for the Area Office and explain that you think the request is extensive and unnecessary.  We would also suggest that for requests on audits and inspections that you remind the Area Director that such a request up front violates formal OSHA policy.  While ORC HSE cannot tell anyone what to specifically do if they do not get reconsideration by the OSHA Area Director, there are three options that come to mind:

Elevate this request for information to the Regional Administrator and explain that it is excessive, why it is excessive, and not within the scope of the OSHA inspection; Obtain advice from legal counsel; and/or Contact ORC HSE and see if they can pursue it through their contacts.

Rich Fairfax

Mr. Fairfax works part time as a consultant for ORC HSE. In his role as a consultant he supports ORC HSE members by providing expert advice on OSHA issues, their HSE issues, conducting surveys on topics of member concern, leading efforts to comment on policy and regulatory issues from OSHA, speaking, and visits to member sites. Read Rich's Full Bio