Interesting experience today. I was able to take part in my first OSHA impromptu Audit. Here are a few lessons I gained from the experience.
1. Your attitude during an OSHA audit should be dictated by your relationship with the local compliance officers and your company's history with OSHA issues. If you have had a somewhat combative relationship I would suggest you make things more organized, while at the same time being open with the inspectors. If you have a freindly relationship or simply a good history with OSHA related issues you might be able to get away with less organization and make it into more of a tour like visit.
2. Understand quickly if your compliance officer is out to get you or one of the ones that is a true believer in making people safe. Do not overly fear or overreact to the audit this will be seen as concealing behavior.
3. While being open and honest is good, don't feel like you need to show him every corner of your business. If he looks like he is going to pass an area by there is no need to bring this to his attention. They WILL charge you for non-compliance issues so lets not air out all of your dirty laundry.
4. I would rather even a surprise visit be organized. Have a plan. If they will need to visit more dangerous areas make sure proper precautions are planned for and ready to be executed. Having an organized meeting before the audit begins in a conference room can buy your supervisors time to make things organized (for example a look at rolling stock having vehicles staged and ready for the inspector). Plus it is nice to give your supervisors a heads up during that time.
5. Your front line supervisors should be involved in the audit process since it is their areas. They don't have to lead the tour, but they should be listening and taking notes on what is being discovered.
6. A safe work environment is the ultimate goal...even if you have a gotcha auditor who is being a jerk, plaster on that smile and thank him for making your workforce safer and giving excellent feedback on your plants safety program.
7. There are programs through OSHA that relive you of being on the Audit list. I highly recommend that you look into these programs (i.e. SHARP or VPP). Even if you have a GREAT relationship with your local OSHA, audits are still a pain.
I am sure there are more things I learned today, but I am still partially digesting, but these are the things that stood out.