What to Do If Your Business Receives an OSHA Citation

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If your business has received a citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a possible violation, your next steps depend upon many factors:

  1. The type of violation for which your business has been cited
  2. The state in which your business operates ( in the event of a multi-location business, the business location that was cited)
  3. Whether the citation is from federal OSHA or a state OSH Department (many states have their own state administered occupational safety and health administrations under what are referred to as an OSHA-approved state plans)
  4. The severity of the violation
  5. Whether this is a repeat violation

Of course, there are many other factors to consider, but these are the basics.  Here we will approach the process from a federal OSHA standpoint.

First, perform a business operational assessment which includes assuring that your employees are safe or immediately made safe from the condition which was the basis of the citation.

Next, contact your legal representative.  You have rights which may be available to you which could possibly dispense with the citation or at least minimize its impact on your business.

Importantly, if you are a client of Regulatory Support Services, contact us.  We may be able to provide you with additional next steps which are specific to your business.  Although we cannot give you legal advice, our knowledge of your specific business will allow for us to explain some of the options which may be available to you.

If you have been issued a Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions (OSHA Notice), you should take immediate action.  For each apparent violation found during the inspection, the compliance officer may have discussed the following with you:

  • The nature of the violation,
  • Possible abatement measures you may take to correct the violative condition, and
  • Possible abatement dates you may be required to meet.

Types of Violations

OSHA violations are classified on a scale which indicates the severity of the violation.  The classifications include:

  • WILLFUL:A willful violation is defined as a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
  • SERIOUS:A serious violation exists when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm.
  • REPEATED:A business may be cited for a repeated violation if the business has been cited previously for the same or a substantially similar condition .
  • OTHER-THAN-SERIOUS:A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but is not serious in nature, is classified as “other-than-serious.”

Posting Requirements

When you receive an OSHA Notice, you must post a copy of it at or near the place where each violation occurred.  The purpose of this posting requirement is to make employees aware of the hazards to which they may be exposed. The OSHA Notice must remain posted for three working days or until the hazard is abated, whichever is longer. (Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays are not counted as working days).

Employer Options

After being cited, an employer may:

  • Correct the condition by the date set in the OSHA Notice; and/or,
  • Request an Informal Conference within 15 working days from the time the employer received the OSHA Notice. This conference is an opportunity to meet with the OSHA Area Director to discuss the violations and/or the abatement dates.
  • If you have abatement questions after the inspection, they should be discussed with the Area Director in the informal conference. Continue reading to understand what happens when your business elects to participate in an informal conference.

How to Comply

You must promptly notify the OSHA Area Director by letter that you have taken the appropriate corrective action within the time set forth in the OSHA Notice. The notification you send the Area Director is generally referred to as a LETTER OF CORRECTIVE ACTION. It must explain the specific action taken to address the violation(s) and state the date each corrective action was taken.

Where the OSHA Notice permits an extended period of time for abatement; during that time, you must assure that employees are adequately protected.  Additionally, you must provide OSHA with a periodic progress report noting the actions your business has taken to abate the problem during the interim.

Informal Conference

You may request an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director to discuss the violations. You may use this opportunity to do any of the following:

  • Request clear explanations for the violations cited.
  • Obtain a more complete understanding of the specific standards that apply.
  • Discuss ways to correct violations.
  • Discuss problems concerning the abatement dates.
  • Discuss problems concerning employee safety practices.
  • Resolve disputed violations.
  • Obtain answers to any other questions you may have.

Take advantage of the opportunity to have an informal conference if you foresee any difficulties in complying with any part of the OSHA Notice. Please note that employee representatives have the right to participate in any informal conference or negotiations between the Area Director or Regional Administrator and the employer.

If you agree that the violations do exist, but you have a valid reason for requesting an extension of the abatement date(s), you may discuss this with the Area Director during the informal conference. The Area Director may issue an amended OSHA Notice that changes the abatement date prior to the expiration of the 15 working day period.

If an issue is not resolved by the Area Director, a summary of the discussion together with the agency’s position on the unresolved issues will be forwarded to the Federal Agency Program Officer (FAPO) within 5 working days of the informal conference.

The FAPO/Regional Administrator will then confer with the appropriate Regional agency official before making a decision relating to the unresolved issues.

If the FAPO/Regional Administrator, in consultation with the Area Director, decides that the item in question should remain unchanged on the OSHA Notice, the appropriate agency officials will be advised.

If there is still an unresolved issue after the Regional review, the agency may send a letter of appeal to OSHA’s Office of Federal Agency Programs (OFAP). OFAP is within the Directorate of Enforcement Programs and is the point of contact in OSHA for the Federal Sector to find answers to occupational safety and health questions.  OFAP will review the disputed issues and discuss these with top agency officials, as appropriate, to obtain resolution. The decision at the National Office level, in consultation with the Regional Administrator, FAPO, and Area Director, is final.

OSHA has made available a guide which outlines, in detail, the rights and responsibilities of a business owner who has received a citation.  It is entitled  Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following a Federal OSHA Inspection .  Again, please reach out to Regulatory Support Services if you receive an OSHA citation.  We can help you understand the process, point you in the right direction, and provide some solutions which may be a part of addressing the violation.

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