As most employers are aware, OSHA inspections typically involve a request for the employer to produce certain documents. In many cases, employers are unsure of what documents the compliance officer is entitled to see and copy. Employers can also be unsure of how long to retain certain documents required under OSHA. Some OSHA regulations require a specific retention period for documents. Other OSHA regulations, however, do not (although it is often advisable to retain certain documents even if retention is not technically required).
This is to point you to our primer on this topic, “OSHA-Related Documents: Creation And Retention.” The extensive article is intended to give general guidance for numerous OSHA areas.
Remember that it is critical that an employer control the flow of information during the inspection, including the information contained in documents. By avoiding production of documentary evidence that is not required by law, the employer reduces the potential for regulatory citations. It is also critical that employers understand what documents they are required to create and retain.
Even when an OSHA standard does not specify how long certain records must be retained, it is advisable to consider retaining such records for a significant length of time. For example, many OSHA standards require employee training, but do not necessarily require documentation of training or retention of training documents. Nonetheless, it is advisable to prepare and retain training documents for the duration of employment because training documents are often indispensable in asserting certain defenses to citations.