What to do When an Inspector Shows Up

The moment you’ve been preparing for is finally here: government inspector has arrived at your facility to determine if you are compliant with their agency’s regulations.

Luckily, if you’ve done the work of knowing what regulations apply to you and prepared both your employees and your facility, there’s no reason to panic.Follow these steps of what to do — and what not to do — when an inspector shows up.

WHAT TO DO

1. Escort the inspector to the main office to meet with the management escort. As part of your
inspection preparation, a management escort should already be identified and all employees should
know not to answer any questions from the inspector, aside from showing them to the office.

2. Request a business card and employee ID or badge from the inspector and inquire about the nature of the visit. You’ll want to know in advance whether this inspection is as a result of a complaint or just a random program inspection. At this point, you should have the inspector fill out your visitor’s log and you should begin taking notes.

3. Escort the inspector to a specific site, such as a conference room, to discuss with facility
personnel (the EHS Manager) the purpose of their inspection before taking him or her to the area in need of inspection. Keep in mind that you do not have to show the inspector any other part of your facility other than the specific part they are there to see. Since you will be leading the walk through, you can choose to take a route that shows the inspector the smallest amount of plant operations as possible. It is even within your rights to take the inspector outside and around to a back door if the area they need to see is more accessible from that entrance.

4. If the inspector needs to take samples, tell them you need to take split samples. You will likely need to supply your own bottles for the sampling, but an inspector cannot refuse a request for split sampling. If they do refuse split sampling, do not allow any sampling to take place. If this occurs, you’ll need to write a memo detailing the inspector’s refusal and sign it along with a witness.

5. If the inspector takes photos, take the same photos with your camera. Alternatively, you can also offer to take the photos yourself and provide the inspector with prints. In some cases, you may want to take your own photos, regardless of whether the inspector is taking photos.

6. Take notes throughout the inspection and be as detailed as possible. Write down what the
inspector sees and says, as well as questions asked and answered. Keep a list of all actions, such as photos and samples taken.

7. Once the inspection is complete, escort the inspector back to the office and ask for an exit
briefing, as well as any paperwork or documentation the inspector will be leaving with you.
At this point, make sure your notes from the inspection are clear and ask the inspector any clarifying
questions you may have. Then, ask the inspector to sign out on your visitor’s log and escort them out of the facility.

WHAT NOT TO DO

1. Do not volunteer any information. While with the inspector, make sure you are only answering
questions that are asked of you. You should be clear, polite, and firm, but there is no need to volunteer additional information that the inspector isn’t asking. This could result in revealing a potential violation that the inspector otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.

2. Do not argue with the inspector. Appearing defensive or argumentative will only cause the inspector to be more suspicious and scrupulous during their visit. Instead, remain polite and accommodating, while also standing firm if you feel like your rights are being breeched.

Different agencies will have different protocols and processes for completing the inspection, so don’t expect each inspection to proceed identically. For instance, OSHA requires both an opening conference and a closing conference. During the opening conference, the purpose of the visit will be explained and the inspector will determine if any employees of other employers are currently working at your facility. While the opening conference is going on, it is a good idea to conduct a quick walk-through self-inspection to ensure all workers are prepared and in compliance before the inspector begins their walk-around. During the closing conference, the inspector will share any apparent violations and follow-up information.

However, while this is the procedure for OSHA, keep in mind that not all agencies will offer a closing conference and you may need to wait to learn the results of your inspection. But don’t worry — you’ll have plenty to do to keep you busy while you wait. Stay tuned to learn Walden’s best tips for how to prepare for and survive an inspection.

Click here to download our full inspection preparation guide, “When Government Visits: How to Prepare For and Survive an Inspection.”

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