Cal/OSHA: Employers Should Verify Inspectors' Credentials

The California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is encouraging employers to verify the credentials of any Cal/OSHA inspectors who come to their work sites. The agency also notes that Cal/OSHA inspectors never will request on-site payment for a fine.

The warning was prompted by several incidents in which a man allegedly impersonated a Cal/OSHA inspector and defrauded restaurant owners. Several similar incidents have occurred across Southern California, in the coastal region near Santa Barbara and in Roseville.

According to Cal/OSHA, after producing what appears to be a valid identification, the suspect inspects the work site and finds alleged safety violations that, according to him, add up to thousands of dollars in fines. The suspect then informs the business owner that he will not issue citations if the owner gives him some cash immediately. Cal/OSHA and local law enforcement authorities are investigating the incidents.

“It is important for all employers to know that a Cal/OSHA inspector will never request payment on site, under any circumstance,” Acting Ca/OSHA Chief Len Welsh said. “Moreover, an inspector will never request payment in lieu of citations.

“We encourage all employers to ask for a state identification card and a business card. If the employer has suspicions that the individual is not a true Cal/OSHA representative, additional verification may be obtained by calling Cal/OSHA's local office to ask about the individual.”

If On-Site Payment Is Requested, Call Cal/OSHA

Business owners should know that Cal/OSHA citations are payable only after issuance of a citation, and the preferred method is through the mail to the California Department of Industrial Relations accounting unit. All payment details are clearly spelled out on the citation itself when it is issued.

If an inspector ever requests payment on site for any reason, employers are urged to call Cal/OSHA headquarters immediately at (510) 286-7000. Cal/OSHA then will contact local law enforcement officials.

Cal/OSHA Rarely Issues Citations On Site

According to the agency, work site health and safety inspections typically are conducted with no prior notice and Cal/OSHA representatives identify themselves to the employer by showing their state of California photo identification card and Division of Occupational Safety and Health business card prior to conducting an inspection.

According to the agency, the Cal/OSHA inspection protocol includes the following:

  • An inspector first identifies him or herself and requests permission to conduct the inspection. The employer is legally entitled to deny the inspection. If inspection is denied, Cal/OSHA requests a court warrant and returns to the work site with the warrant and conducts the inspection.
  • Upon obtaining permission to conduct an inspection, the inspector first discusses with the employer his or her rights and responsibilities during an inspection as well as what happens during the inspection process.
  • An inspector walks and reviews the employer's premises and interviews employees.
  • An inspection is concluded with another discussion that includes what hazards were identified; if citations will be issued, an inspector explains the process for those as well.
  • Cal/OSHA rarely issues citations on site.
  • It is never proper for a Cal/OSHA investigator to request any kind of payment during the inspection.

The Roseville Police Department recently issued a warrant for the arrest of a man who the department believes was part of two recent incidents involving impersonation of a Cal/OSHA inspector.

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