OSHA Inquiries and Inspections

Iowa OSHA is the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is the State of Iowa's regulatory agency that is charged with enforcing worker safety laws. Iowa OSHA applies federal OSHA standards (29 CFR PART 1910 and 1926) as adopted by Iowa Workforce Development, Division of Labor. The agency performs scheduled general inspections and investigates safety and health complaints and fatalities and catastrophes in construction and general industry.
University-wide procedures have been put in place to provide a more consistent institutional response to potential health and safety issues raised by Iowa OSHA and to implement timely action to ensure a safe environment for employees. Follow one of the two procedures below depending on whether contact is a telephone/fax inquiry or an onsite inspection.

Procedure for Telephone/Fax Inquiry

When notified by telephone or fax, Iowa OSHA requires management to investigate and submit an appropriate written response within 5 working days of notification. Failure to respond as required will result in Iowa OSHA scheduling an on-site inspection.  

Initial Contact

Upon contact by Iowa OSHA regarding a safety and health complaint, immediate action is required.

  • Contact EHS for assistance (335-8501); they will assist with evaluating the complaint, explaining acceptable responses, and providing response letter requirements and format. 
  • Contact General Counsel’s office (335-2841); they will assign an attorney to assist department and review management’s response letter to Iowa OSHA. Allow time for review and revision, when necessary, and still fulfill Iowa OSHA’s 5 working day deadline. 

Initial Response

  • Inspection team (Department management and EHS representative minimum) collects information currently available on conditions related to complaint issue. 
  • Determine if additional information is necessary to evaluate the complaint properly. 
  • Collect any additional information (interviews, sampling) needed to evaluate complaint.
  • Determine if any changes are necessary based on the complaint. With approval of management, make simple changes immediately. If more difficult changes are required, establish a time table to make the changes needed. 

Draft Response

Draft the written response to Iowa OSHA including the following information: 

  • Conditions found when complaint was investigated. If additional information will be delayed, e.g., lab results, that prevent the completion of the investigation within five days, explain situation and provide a timetable for completion. 
  • What had been done by management to address issue prior to receiving the complaint?  If complaint is not valid explain why. Include results of any tests performed. 
  • If complaint has any validity, explain what has been done to rectify issue. If not corrected prior to sending response letter, what will be done to address complaint and establish a time table for completion? 
  • Provide contact information in case Iowa OSHA may require additional information. 
  • Send draft response to designated attorney in the General Counsel Office, and EHS for review. Allow sufficient time to review and make any suggested changes. 

Final Response

  • Utilizing General Counsel and EHS inputs, complete the final response letter and mail to Iowa OSHA within 5 working days; delivery confirmation is required. Provide a copy to General Counsel and EHS. 
  • Post a copy of the complaint letter received from Iowa OSHA and management’s final response letter to Iowa OSHA in the workplace where affected employees can review. 

Post Response

  • If Iowa OSHA is not satisfied with response an onsite inspection may occur. If this occurs, refer to the procedure for an onsite inspection.
  • If a citation is received with safety or health violations alleged, contact EHS and General Counsel. General Counsel, not EHS or the department involved, is the only University representative authorized to act on settlement agreements.

Procedure for Onsite Inspection

Iowa OSHA inspectors are law enforcement officers with the right to enter and inspect workplaces for safety and health hazards in a reasonable manner. Any attempt to deny an inspector entry must be approved by the General Counsel (335-2841).

Initial Contact

Information you should request from the inspector to expedite inspection:  

  • Check Inspector Credentials = Photo ID, Iowa Workforce Development, Division of Labor. 
  • Ask inspector whether the inspection involves an imminent danger hazard. 
  • Determine whether focus of inspection is on safety issues or health issues. 
  • Determine whether inspection involves union employees; if so, a representative should be notified. 

Initial Response

Imminent danger hazard = call EHS (335-8501) to meet you at site and take inspector directly to site. 
Non-imminent danger hazard = gather inspection team for opening conference: 

  • Contact EHS for safety or health representative (335-8501) 
  • Notify Office of Employee and Labor Relations if union employees are involved (335-0052).
  • Notify University Relations and refer any media or public information request to them (335-0557). 
  • Department management representative (accompany inspector at all times except during employee interviews). 

Opening Conference

  • When inspection team is assembled, Iowa OSHA inspector will explain location and reason for inspection. 
  • Inspector will request any documents needed. 
  • If accident illness records or OSHA Log requested, contact University Benefits Office at 335-2676. 

Site Inspection

  • Site inspection is performed after opening conference, typically with inspection team. Inspector determines order of walk around inspection. Only go where required to perform the inspection and minimizes access to other locations. No tours. 
  • Provide all inspection team members with correct personal protective equipment, safety orientation information, and appropriate warnings. 
  • If asked, explain how equipment not in use works, do not demonstrate it. Answer inspector’s questions truthfully, but only answer specific questions asked. 
  • If inspector points out what he/she considers a violation, fix alleged violation before end of inspection if possible and notify inspector. Do not volunteer information without first discussing it with EHS representative. Information disputing an alleged violation can be sent to the inspector after he/she leaves. 
  • Interviews with managers should be done with EHS representative present; however, inspectors are legally permitted to interview employees in private (and normally do just that). 

Closing Conference

  • Inspector holds a closing conference at end of inspection and identifies any alleged violation that will be cited. Inspector usually discusses possible abatement measures to correct violation. Inspector may refer other potential violations to other Iowa OSHA representatives for evaluation. 
  • Appropriate correction dates for alleged violations are usually determined at closing. 
  • If any violations are alleged, contact EHS and University Counsel after closing. University Counsel is the only University representative (not the department or EHS) authorized to act on settlement agreements. 

Post Inspection

If a citation is received with safety or health violations alleged, contact EHS and University Counsel. University Counsel is only University representative authorized to act on settlement agreements.