During the course of operating a business, employers may be faced with requests to interview hourly employees and/or members of management, including first-line supervisors. Requests may come from law enforcement and regulatory agency representatives, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Investigative bodies, such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) may also conduct employee interviews following a major transportation accident or chemical spill.
Requests for interviews may be the result of incidents, complaints, routine inspections or enforcement actions. In any case, employers and employees have rights that should be clearly understood and communicated to all parties involved. This requires preparation. In this paper, we will focus primarily on interviews conducted by OSHA, MSHA, and the CSB.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this paper is based on the author's experience as a safety professional, representing clients and attorneys in dealings with OSHA, MSHA, and the CSB. It should not be considered as legal advice. When developing procedures for managing employee interviews by regulatory agencies and investigative bodies, employers should seek advice from attorneys with experience in these areas.
Regulatory agencies, such as OSHA, MSHA, and the EPA, have the authority to issue citations, levy fines and, in some rare instances, recommend criminal prosecution. Erroneous information or poor communication can adversely impact the investigation process, possibly resulting in prolonged investigations, costly litigation, and adverse publicity.
It is important to understand that employee interviews are just one aspect in an incident investigation or regulatory agency visit. It is a good idea to have a procedure for managing regulatory agency visits and outside agency investigations.