OSHA Compliance Inspections ... Case Study in Practicing For The Real Thing

A grain handling company recently asked me to perform mock Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) inspections at its facilities.

The company had a policy and checklist for managing OSHA inspections but had never practiced or prepared in a simulated manner.

OSHA focuses its inspection resources on the most hazardous workplaces.

There are six categories of inspections including:

1. Imminent danger situations which include hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm.

2. Severe injuries and illnesses from workplaces that have reported a work-related fatality, inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

3. Worker complaints or allegations of hazards by employees.

4. Referrals from other federal, state, or local agencies, individuals, organizations, or the media.

5. Targeted inspections of high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries or illnesses.

6. Follow-up inspections to verify abatement of violations cited during previous inspections.

For the purpose of the mock inspections, we simulated targeted inspections based on the local emphasis program (LEP) for grain handling facilities.

LEP enforcement strategies are intended to address hazards or industries that pose a particular risk to workers.

Opening Conference

Upon arriving at each facility, we discussed the importance of verifying the inspector’s credentials.

During the opening conference, I played the role of an OSHA compliance officer and indicated that the LEP targeted inspection would focus on the grain handling areas of the facility.

I also requested the company provide documentation including OSHA 300 logs for the past five years, the written hazard communication program to include a safety data sheet for grain dust/whole grains, their lockout/tagout program, a copy of their certification of hazard analysis for personal protective equipment, and items from OSHA instruction CPL 02-01-004 inspection of grain handling facilities.

This directive instructs compliance officers to focus their attention on items including emergency action plans, training documentation, hot work permits, bin entry permits, provisions for contractors, the written housekeeping program, and preventive maintenance inspections.

Facility Requirements

Emergency action plans must be in writing except for employers with 10 or fewer employees.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees will still have to comply with the 29 CFR 1910.38 (Emergency Action Plans) requirements and be able to substantiate that the plan is being communicated orally in an effective manner.

In addition to the applicable training requirements outlined in OSHA’s General Industry standards, OSHA 1910.272 also requires that employees be trained in the recognition and prevention of hazards associated with grain handling facilities, especially those hazards associated with their own work tasks.

Employees must be trained in all aspects of their job tasks, including bin entry and not to introduce ignition sources through the use of electric tools, welding, cutting, use of open flames, or smoking in hazardous areas.

In addition, OSHA requires grain handling facilities to provide specific instruction to contractors on the safety rules of the facility, including applicable provisions of the emergency action plan.

OSHA 1910.272 also requires the employer to issue a permit for hot work except where the employer’s representative, who would otherwise authorize the permit, is present while the hot work is being performed.

Welding shops authorized by the employer and hot work areas authorized by the employer outside of the grain handling structure are excluded from the requirements.

If a permit process is implemented, it must certify that the requirements contained in CFR 1910.252 Welding Cutting and Brazing are implemented and followed.

If the employer elects to have a representative present instead of a permit, the employer must still follow the same requirements as if a permit were issued under CFR 1910.252.

Grain handling facilities must issue a permit for entering bins, silos, or tanks unless the employer or the employer’s representative (who would otherwise authorize the permit) is present during the entire operation. The permit must only be kept on file until completion of the entry operations.

OSHA 1910.272 requires that the employer develop and implement a written housekeeping program that establishes the frequency and methods determined to best reduce accumulations of fugitive grain dust on ledges, floors, equipment, and other exposed surfaces.

The program also must address fugitive dust accumulations in priority areas.

The Grain Handling Standard requires regularly scheduled inspections of “at least” the mechanical and safety control equipment associated with dryers, grain stream processing equipment, dust collection equipment, and bucket elevators.

A certification record must be maintained for each inspection, containing the date of inspection, name of the person who performed the inspection, and the serial number or other identifier of the equipment.


Upon completion of the opening conference, I conducted a walkaround inspection.

The inspection focused on items including combustible dust housekeeping in priority areas, walking and working surfaces, hazard monitoring equipment required by the grain handling standard, machine guarding, and electrical hazards.

The two company escorts were in my hip pocket for the entire walkthrough.

They kept detailed notes of everything I focused on and discussed during the inspection.

They also took pictures of everything I photographed.

They did a respectable job of not volunteering any information, while asking questions on items I commented on or wrote down.

I could tell that they had been trained in their company’s inspection protocols.

Closing Conference

Upon conclusion of the inspection, a closing conference was held.

The management representatives did an impressive job of asking questions regarding potential violations. Noting the potential violations helps ensure that there will be no disputes at a later conference or hearing.

It also allows the company time to address abatement of potential citations.

Consider performing random mock OSHA inspections at your grain handling facilities.

Use the information covered in this article as a guide.

I think you will find that these inspections are a positive learning opportunity and good practice for the real thing.

As they say, practice makes perfect, but only if you practice perfectly.

Source: Joe Mlynek is president and safety and loss control consultant for Progressive Safety Services LLC, Gates Mills, OH; 216-403-9669; and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple, Olathe, KS.