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Preparing for the inspection

Prior to the inspection, the MNOSHA investigator will become familiar with as many relevant facts as possible about the workplace, such as the inspection history of the establishment, the nature of the business and the particular standards that might apply.

Investigator’s credentials

When the MNOSHA investigator arrives at the establishment, he or she presents official credentials and asks to meet an appropriate employer representative. Employers should always be sure they see the investigator's credentials.

Opening conference

In the opening conference, the investigator explains the purpose of the investigation and its intended scope of coverage. The investigator will also check whether an OSHA safety or health consultation is in progress or if there has been a recent enforcement inspection.

An authorized employee representative will be given the opportunity to attend the opening and closing conferences and to accompany the investigator and the employer during the walkaround inspection. The investigator may also consult with a reasonable number of employees concerning safety and health matters in the workplace. Employees are protected under the OSH Act from discrimination by the employer for exercising their safety and health rights.   

Every inspection includes a review of posting and recordkeeping requirements. The investigator will inspect records of deaths, injuries and illnesses that the employer is required to keep. Also, the investigator will verify the MNOSHA workplace poster, which explains employees’ safety and health rights, is prominently displayed. Where the employer has records of employee exposure to toxic substances and harmful physical agents, these may also be examined.

Minnesota's “A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR) Act” requires many employers to establish and develop written safety and health programs. The investigator will review the employer’s AWAIR and other OSHA-required programs.

The investigator will also explain the requirements of the Minnesota employee right-to-know (RTK) standard. Employers must establish a written comprehensive right-to-know program that includes provisions for container labeling, safety data sheets and employee training. The RTK program must contain a list of the hazardous chemicals in each work area and the means the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards of both everyday and nonroutine tasks.

Walkaround

After the opening conference, the investigator and accompanying representatives will proceed through the establishment to inspect work areas for safety or health hazards. An inspection tour may cover part or all of an establishment, even if the inspection resulted from a specific complaint, fatality or catastrophe.

The route and duration of the inspection are determined by the investigator. While talking with employees, the investigator makes every effort to minimize work interruptions.

The investigator will observe safety and health conditions and practices; consult with employees privately; take photos, videos and/or instrument readings; examine records, collect air samples, measure noise levels and survey existing engineering controls; and monitor employee exposure to toxic fumes, gases and dusts.  

During the course of the inspection or at the closing conference, the investigator will point out to the employer any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions observed. It is the responsibility of the employer to take notes about the unsafe and unhealthful conditions and begin correcting them as soon as possible.  

Some apparent violations detected by the investigator can be corrected immediately. Even though corrected, these apparent violations still serve as the basis for a citation and penalty. However, prompt action may be considered as a factor in penalty reduction.

Closing conference

At the conclusion of the inspection, the investigator conducts a closing conference with the employer and the authorized employee representative. The investigator will discuss all unsafe or unhealthful conditions observed during the inspection and indicate violations for which a citation and penalty may be issued. The investigator may explain the basis for penalty calculation but will not indicate any specific penalties. The investigator will also discuss possible abatement methods. The length of time needed for abatement of each item will be discussed and a reasonable amount of time allowed. The employer is also informed of contestation rights and the right to have the abatement date extended.