Part one of a three part story by Paul Andersen OSHA Compliance Services
In the last edition (part 1 & part 2) we reviewed what to expect during a workplace Inspection and briefly discussed your basic rights and the importance of cooperation during an Inspection. We will now conclude our three part story of “How to Survive an OSHA Audit.
The law requires OSHA to issue citations for safety and health standards violations. If you are issued a citation it will include:
- A description “with particularity” of the violation
- The proposed penalty, if any
- The date by which the hazard must be corrected.
Citations are usually prepared at the local OSHA office and are mailed to the employer via certified mail. OSHA has up to six months to send a Notice of Penalty.
The Employer has 15 working days upon receipt to file an intention to contest OSHA citations and/or to request an informal conference with the area director to discuss any citations issued. Beware that failure to submit your intent to appeal within the 15 days period may cause you to lose your right to appeal.
Common causes to dispute citations include:
- The citation is incorrect
- The citation’s dollar penalty is excessive (yes, this is a legitimate dispute)
- You disagree with the citation’s contention that a dangerous condition / exposure existed, or that an accident was unlikely to occur
- The level of the citation is incorrect (willful, serious)
- The contention that you are responsible for causing the unsafe conditions is incorrect.
Contesting a citation is considered by most safety professionals to be a good idea. Though you may not always get the citation completely dismissed, you are in a better position to negotiate the CO’s finding, the severity of the citation, and even the fine.
No matter if you contest the citation or not, the most important action you can take is to abate any hazardous or unsafe condition as soon as possible. Document (writing and photos) any corrections or proof that the hazardous or unsafe condition no longer exists or never existed. Abating the hazardous conditions will not only make the workplace safe, but it will also stop the clock on the number of days the violation occurred. Additionally, OSHA typically lessens the penalty amount under the “good faith” rule if the employer shows corrective actions have occurred.
If you do become the subject of an OSHA audit here are some tips to help you be prepared and survive the experience.
Be prepared by making sure you have a plan in place in the event of an OSHA inspection. Your plan should include:
- Identifying who will represent your company
- A determination of whether you will require a warrant
- Document what occurs during the inspection
- Ensure all pertinent documentation such as written programs, training and inspection records, etc. are readily available.
- Train your staff on your plan.
There is no way to avoid an OSHA inspection, but you can be prepared when it happens. If you are not already doing so, conduct routine site inspections for known and suspected hazards and fix them. Review your Safety and Compliance Programs to ensure they are up to date and they address the appropriate items and issues for your work activities. Train your employees (including contractors and sub-contractors) on your safety policies and procedures. Maintain your required recordkeeping and documentation.
For more information on OSHA rules and regulations for wineries and growers, contact OSHA Compliance Services LLC at (916) 715-8052 or visit or website at www.OSHAcomplianceservices.com.
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