OSHA Inspections and Search Warrants – What’s the Rule vs. Best Practice?

inspector with clipboard wearing hard hatCongress granted the Secretary of Labor the authority to enter places of employment to conduct safety and health inspections. The OSH Act provides that such inspections must take place at reasonable times, within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner and that they may include inspection of relevant conditions, structures and other equipment. For a general description of the inspection process, OSHA has published a Fact Sheet which is available here.

As the Fact Sheet indicates, it is also well-established that an employer may generally request a search warrant before allowing an OSHA inspector into the worksite. There are limited exceptions to the warrant requirement which include 1) consent by the employer 2) authorized third party consent such as consent provided by a general contractor at the worksite 3) emergency situations if there is a compelling need for official action and no time to secure a warrant and 4) if the conditions are in plain view of the public or inspectors while they are lawfully on the employer’s premises. (more…)

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