United States: Preparing For An OSHA Interview Under The Current Administration

As many employers know, OSHA has attempted to gain unprecedented power in the inspection process.  Indeed, as this article is written, battles are being fought in federal court relative to OSHA's authority and power in the inspection and rulemaking process.

One of the tools OSHA employs in the inspection process is the aggressive pursuit of employee interviews.  Aggressive interviews, coupled with OSHA's insistence that the interviews are OSHA's "right," have led employees and employers to feel an extreme sense of helplessness during the interview process.  These attempts to broaden OSHA's power underscore the need for employers to obtain guidance – in advance of an inspection – on how to prepare and handle company witness interviews.

The following should be considered in advance of OSHA arriving and requesting interviews:

  1. Consider a warrant.  While generally not recommended in the past, employers may want to consider demanding a warrant before permitting OSHA to begin the inspection process.  This may be necessary to limit and define the scope of the inspection. 
  2. If a warrant is not requested, employers should get a clear agreement on the scope of the inspection and require strict adherence to that agreed scope. This is crucial and the subject of many current legal fights. To the extent possible, OSHA should not be allowed to deviate from the agreed scope of the inspection.
  3. All employees can elect to not give an interview.  Even if OSHA threatens an administrative subpoena, a witness can refuse to speak and invoke the protections of the 5th Amendment. 
  4. If consent is given to the interview, the witness should tell the truth.  Intentionally misleading or lying carriers the potential of harsh penalties and needlessly complicates the investigation. 
  5. If the witness feels the investigation is headed in a direction that has criminal implications, the interview should be immediately terminated.  OSHA interviews are non-custodial and the protections of Miranda generally do not apply.
  6. The witness should demand candor from OSHA and fair questions to answer.
  7. If the witness feels intimidated or harassed, the interview should be stopped and the area director immediately notified.
  8. The witness does not have to sign a statement and should not feel compelled to do so.   
  9. If the witness elects to sign a statement, they should review the entire document and ensure it is complete and accurate.  The employee is not required to give a written witness statement. If the employee decides to do so, he or she should take it home and review it prior to returning it to OSHA. There is no obligation to give OSHA a witness statement "on-the-spot."
  10. The witness can refuse to be recorded by audio and/or video.
  11. The witness should make certain they understand what is being asked before answering.
  12. The witness should feel free to ask the investigator questions for clarification.
  13. The witness should give direct and short answers to the questions.
  14. The witnesses should not guess or speculate.
  15. The witness does not have to answer a question that was not asked.
  16. You do not have to know everything.  There is nothing wrong with saying "I do not know" or "I do not remember" if it is the truth.
  17. The witness should not feel compelled to make small talk with the investigator or provide irrelevant personal information to the investigator.
  18. The witness should not be pressured by repeat questions.  If the same questions is asked repeatedly, the witness should not feel compelled to change his/her answer.
  19. Do not let the pregnant pause give birth to a bad answer.  There is nothing wrong with silence.  If there are long pauses or staring contests the witness should not give in to breaking the silence.
  20. The witness should be aware of inaccuracies (even minor inaccuracies) imbedded in questions.  Do not agree to anything that is not completely accurate.
  21. There is a reason for every question.  OSHA is likely asking questions to support citations.  Keep in mind OSHA rarely conducts an investigation without citing an employer.
  22. OSHA loves admissions, especially from management level employees.  In fact, OSHA depends upon such admissions to show employer knowledge of a hazard. In situations involving a traumatic situation, or where employees wrongfully feel responsible, interviews should be postponed until employees are able to give a fair interview.
  23. While care should be taken with non-management employees, they should be offered the opportunity to be prepared for the interview. 
  24. All employees should be advised that they cannot and will not suffer adverse employment actions for simply giving an interview to OSHA. 
  25. Consider having counsel present for all interviews and prep sessions. It should be anticipated that OSHA will resist the presence of counsel, especially if the employer and the employees are sharing the same counsel or the employer is paying for counsel.  Regardless, if a non-management employee desires the presence of counsel, it should be clearly made known by the employee.  If OSHA attempts to assert the potential for a "conflict of interest," it should be pointed out that potential conflicts of interest are for the employee/employer to raise.
  26. You do not have to go alone.  If the employee is a manager or has any supervisory authority, the employer has the right to have a representative, including counsel, present during the interview.  Similarly, employees who are not members of management do not have to go alone as they can insist on the presence of counsel or a colleague.  If OSHA resists, the person being interviewed needs to be prepared to insist on their request.
  27. Be professional and courteous regardless of the circumstances.  There is nothing wrong with being polite, but insisting that OSHA honor your rights and follow the proper procedures.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Travis W. Vance
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.