In most cases, OSHA inspections are unscheduled. The first thing to do when an inspector arrives unannounced is confirm their credentials. Be sure to copy his or her badge and call the local OSHA office to confirm. You even have the right to request that the OSHA compliance officer obtain an inspection warrant in order to perform the survey. However, it is possible that requesting a warrant can create an adversarial situation that can lead to a more stringent review process and cause more headaches for you and your employees.

OSHA inspections can occur for the following reasons:

  • Random selection
  • Targeting specific industries where they suspect hazardous workplace conditions
  • After a severe injury occurred on premise
  • Worker allegations of hazardous conditions or violations
  • Follow-up inspections to confirm hazardous conditions/violations have been abated
  • Referral (police, fire department, etc.).

The first part of the inspection is an opening consultation. They will review why they selected the workplace, how they are going to conduct the survey and what paperwork they will need to review. You should assign two employees of your wash to accompany the officer. One person should be intimately familiar with all facility operations and safety procedures, while the other should be an employee that can take notes and pictures of everything that the inspector points out. Consider using someone other than management. This might be a good method of giving non-management personnel a feeling of being an integral part of the safety protocols at the wash.

The next phase of the inspection is the walk around. Make sure that your employee assigned to the officer takes detailed notes in order to have as much information as possible when reviewing any violations written up. These details could help mitigate fines associated with violations.

The last aspect of the inspection is the closing conference. During this session, the compliance officer will outline his findings and discuss any citations and proposed penalties. This is your opportunity to provide any explanations or documentation to offset their findings. If there is evidence of OSHA standards violations or if serious hazards are identified, they may issue citations and fines.

OSHA is required to send a written violation report, “Citation and Notification of Penalty,” within six months of the visit. The report will describe the following:

  • The alleged OSHA standard(s) violated (categorized as Willful, Serious, Other than Serious, Failure to Abate, or Repeated)
  • Proposed penalties
  • Deadline for correcting alleged hazards/violations.

This Citation and Notification of Penalty Report must be posted in a conspicuous area of the wash at all locations.

For violations categorized as ‘Serious,’ OSHA has a practice of reducing penalties that pertain to small employers and those acting in good faith. This, however, would not apply to alleged ‘Willful’ violations.

The employer has the right to appeal. This appeal must be submitted within 15 working days, after receipt of the officer’s written citation report and submitted to the OSHA Area Director in writing.  Please note that this is the only timeframe that you have to appeal. Once this timeframe elapses, you lose that right completely and your written citation becomes your final order.

Your penalty payment is also due within 15 working days after receipt of the officer’s written citation report.

Some of the most common violations that occur are:

  • No written hazard communication plan in place
  • Lack of or improper use of PPE (personal protection equipment)
  • No written procedures for lock out/tag out
  • Insufficient eyewash stations
  • Electrical (particularly in the equipment rooms).

Make sure to stay up to date on all OSHA regulations, not only for the safety of your employees but also for the efficiency and effectiveness of your business.

Refer to www.OSHA.gov for a list of required OSHA Standards.


Mike Benmosche, CIC, is the national carwash program manager for McNeil & Co. McNeil & Co., with over 25 years in business, has become a nationwide leader in specialized risk management and insurance, specializing in the professional carwashing industry. For more information, please visit www.mcneilandcompany.com.