A Roofer’s Guide to Safely Navigating an OSHA Inspection

WHAT SHOULD I DO DURING THE INSPECTION? ARE THERE AREAS I CAN PREVENT OSHA FROM VIEWING?

When OSHA is onsite, the superintendent should remain alert, aware, and advocate for his or her company. He or she needs to contact management immediately and, if possible, delay the site inspection until management and/or the safety director arrives on the job site. The superintendent has specific rights granted to him or her under the CFR, and he or she must use those rights to protect themselves, the business, and the men and women who rely on that business for their livelihood.

The superintendent has the right to accompany the inspectors wherever they go onsite, and he or she should do so. The inspector should be followed on the roof, through the rafters and wherever else he or she intends to go. The superintendent also needs to ask a few key questions of the inspector and needs to ask them often. Mainly he or she needs to know why OSHA is here. What is the scope of the investigation? What particularly is the inspector here to see? Once the superintendent knows what OSHA wants, he or she can then limit the inspector to the specific area the inspector has come onsite to inspect. If an inspector attempts to go outside the scope of his or her inspection, then the superintendent needs to notify the inspector and voice an objection immediately.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE INSPECTION?

During the inspection, the OSHA compliance officer will walk through the project. The inspector’s main focus is usually fall-protection equipment and the crew’s fall-protection practices. Always make sure every harness, rope, anchor and lanyard that is onsite is properly maintained. Damaged equipment should be discarded and replaced. Roofers are cited far too often because an old harness or frayed rope stays on a truck when it should have been discarded. This is an easy citation to avoid.

Throughout the inspection, the OSHA officer may perform brief interviews with the crew and question them about various issues relating to the inspection. OSHA has the right under the CFR to perform these interviews in private away from the superintendent if the interviewees are not management. Although the questioning can be private, it must also be brief. The superintendent needs to object to any questioning that goes on for an excessive amount of time. Interviews with crewmembers that go beyond 10 to 15 minutes are often considered excessive by administrative judges, and superintendents should voice objections to such interviews.

Next, an OSHA inspector may ask to interview the managers and superintendents onsite. This is a common practice and OSHA is within its rights granted by the CFR to request such an interview; however, company managers have the right to refuse an interview without counsel present. This is important to remember because poor statements about safety from a crewman can hurt your case, but poor statements about safety from a supervisor can destroy your case. The only discussion going on between a supervisor and an OSHA compliance officer during the walkthrough inspection should involve the scope of the inspection. The superintendent should not answer any questions regarding safety protocols, equipment, or practices without the assistance of counsel or the presence of senior management.

REMEMBER YOUR RIGHTS.

An OSHA inspection can be a trying and frustrating time. The best defense against costly citations is to teach satisfactory safety techniques within the crew, update and maintain your required safety equipment, and to remember your rights when OSHA visits the job site.

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About Anthony David Tilton

Anthony David Tilton is a construction-law associate with Trent Cotney P.A, Tampa, Fla. He works primarily on matters relating to OSHA defense, construction litigation and arbitration, licensing and building code-violation defense.

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