Occupational Safety & Health Administration – Citations
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or OSHA as it is commonly referred to, is responsible for ensuring that workers are provided with a safe place to work. This is accomplished by inspections conducted by an OSHA inspector at various construction sites. These inspections are often conducted without notice to the employer. Although, in certain situations the employer may be put on notice.
If the OSHA inspector determines that one or more of OSHA’s regulations have been violated, a citation is issued along with a penalty.
The penalty to be imposed is determined by the OSHA Area Director based on factors including but not limited to the nature of the violation, the risk of harm/injury/death, and whether the employer is a “repeat offender.” The imposed penalty can range from $0.00 to $500,000 (depending on whether the violator is an individual or corporation and whether the violation was willful). Certain citations may even carry a jail sentence. For more on the penalty schedule visit the OSHA website.
If an employer is cited with an OSHA violation, it is entitled to contest such violation.
However, there is a very short strict time period in which to do so. An entity cited by OSHA has 15 business days from receipt of a citation(s) and proposed penalties to abate the violation, demand an informal hearing with the OSHA Area Director, or contest the citation(s) before the OSHA Review Commission. It is important to note that if the citation is contested and an informal hearing is requested with the OSHA Area Director, it does not toll the 15 day time period to request a hearing before the OSHA Review Commission.
Therefore, when an employer receives such a citation, it should be mindful of these time periods. One should also be mindful of the documentation provided to resolve the citation. Often times it does not provide for a “lack of admission of guilt” clause, which potentially may subject the employer to future liability in the event someone was injured or killed or further legal action is initiated.