OSHA Inspections: Employer Rights and Responsibilities – Posting Requirements and Informal Conferences

When a citation and notification of penalty is received from the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, the citation, or a copy thereof, must be posted near the place where each violation occurred to make employees aware of possible hazardous conditions. Furthermore, the citation must remain posted in a place visible to employees for three working days or until the violation is corrected. Posting must be complied with, even if the employer contests the citation.

After receiving a citation, employers may take several courses of action. If an employer agrees with the citation and notification of penalty, the condition must be corrected by the date indicated on the citation and pay the subsequent penalty, if imposed. If the employer does not agree with the citation, they may, within 15 working days, contest the citation in writing. However, before deciding to contest a citation, employers may request an informal conference with an OSHA director within 15 working days to discuss any issue related to the citation and notification of penalty.

An informal conference gives the employer the opportunity to: (1) obtain an explanation of the violation; (2) obtain a specific understanding for the standards that apply; (3) negotiate and enter into a settlement agreement; (4) discuss ways to correct violations; (5) discuss the proposed penalties; (6) discuss abatement dates; (7) resolve disputed citations and penalties; and (8) obtain answers to any question that the employer may have pertaining to the citation.

Informal conferences give employers an opportunity to discuss with an area director the possibility to extend abatement date(s) where an employer agrees that a cited violation exists, yet believes it has a valid reason for wishing to extend the time to abate. If an employer does not contest a citation within 15 working days, the citation will become a final order not subject to review. After a final order is issued, an OSHA area director may further provide employers with information and assistance on how to abate the cited hazards, but may not amend a citation that has become a final order.

Whenever an informal conference is afforded to an employer, all affected employees or employee representatives, as well as any other affected parties, will have an opportunity to participate fully in the informal conference. However, if a party chooses not to participate in an informal conference, they forfeit the right to be consulted before a decision is made that affects the citation. An objection to the attendance of another party at an informal conference may lead OSHA to hold separate informal conferences.

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