Q & A: OSHA Inspection Scope Limitations
Question: “What if inspectors question does not relate to the items that spawned inspection? Can the person be told they don't have to answer?”
Answer: No employer or employee can be compelled to volunteer information, however, OSHA can subpoena for any information deemed necessary to complete an inspection, and can ask anything reasonable pursuant to the investigation. For example, if an inspection is the result of an employee complaint, and a hazard that meets the criteria for “immediate danger” is recognized during the course of inspection, OSHA can and will ask for corrective measures. Remember that employers do not have to grant access to worksites, and that employees can refuse to be interviewed, however, OSHA can obtain warrants and subpoenas sufficient for their purposes.
Straight from the Occupation Safety & Health Officer’s Field Manual…
III. Inspection Scope.
Inspections, either programmed or unprogrammed, fall into one of two categories depending on the scope of the inspection:
A. Comprehensive. A comprehensive inspection is a substantially complete and thorough inspection of all potentially hazardous areas of the establishment. An inspection may be deemed comprehensive even though, as a result of professional judgment, not all potentially hazardous conditions or practices within those areas are inspected. 3-5
B. Partial. A partial inspection is one whose focus is limited to certain potentially hazardous areas, operations, conditions or practices at the establishment. 1. A partial inspection may be expanded based on information gathered by the CSHO during the inspection process consistent with the Act and Area Office priorities. 2. CSHOs shall use established written guidelines and criteria, such as Agency directives and LEPs, in conjunction with information gathered during the records or program review and walkaround inspection, to determine whether expanding the scope of an inspection is warranted.
Where entry has been allowed but the employer interferes with or limits any important aspect of the inspection, the CSHO shall determine whether or not to consider this action as a refusal. See §1903.7(b). Examples of interference are employer refusals to permit: Ø the walkaround; Ø the examination of records essential to the inspection; Ø the taking of essential photographs and/or videotapes; Ø the inspection of a particular part of the premises; Ø private employee interviews; or Ø the attachment of sampling devices.
Here’s a copy of Employer’s Right & Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection to learn more.