Q & A: OSHA Inspections & Subpoenas
Question: “Are employees required to speak to the inspector?”
Answer: No. Employee interviews are voluntary. However, OSHA can work to secure a subpoena to force an interview, but that is not an immediate outcome. No employee can be compelled to sit for a one-on-one, private interview on site with an OSHA inspector, but OSHA has the right to ask for this.
Straight from the Occupation Safety & Health Officer’s Field Manual…
- Interviews of Non-Managerial Employees.
- A free and open exchange of information between CSHOs and employees is essential to an effective inspection. Interviews provide an opportunity for employees to supply valuable factual information concerning hazardous conditions, including information on how long workplace conditions have existed, the number and extent of employee exposure(s) to a hazardous condition, and the actions of management regarding correction of a hazardous condition.
a. Section 8(a)(2) of the Act authorizes CSHOs to question any employee privately during regular working hours or at other reasonable times during the course of an OSHA inspection. The purpose of such interviews is to obtain whatever information CSHOs deem necessary or useful in carrying out inspections effectively. The mandate to interview employees in private is OSHA’s right.
b. Employee interviews are an effective means to determine if an advance notice of inspection has adversely affected the inspection conditions, as well as to obtain information regarding the employer’s knowledge of the workplace conditions or work practices in effect prior to, and at the time of, the inspection. During interviews with employees, CSHOs should ask about these matters.
c. CSHOs should also obtain information concerning the presence and/or implementation of a safety and health system to prevent or control workplace hazards.
d. If an employee refuses to be interviewed, the CSHO shall use professional judgment, in consultation with the Area Director or designee, in determining the need for the employee’s statement.