By Donna McEntee
Being inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can be an intimidating prospect. Receiving a citation can be even more unsettling. Are you aware of what happens when you are issued an OSHA citation?
OSHA will typically send citations to employers by certified mail. Citations will also be mailed to employee representatives after confirming that the employer has received the request. If there was a fatality, the victim’s family will automatically be provided with a copy of the citations.
As the employer, you may agree to the Citation and Notification of Penalty. However, you must correct the conditions by the date set in the citation and pay the penalty, if one is proposed. If you do not agree with the citations, proposed penalties, and/or the abatement date, you only have 15 working days from the date you receive the citation to contest the notification. Citations become a final order if you do not contest within 15 working days. OSHA will still provide assistance, but will not make any amendments or changes to the citations or penalties.
If you decide to contest, you are entitled to an informal conference with the OSHA area director, within the 15 working day period, to discuss any issues related to the notification. OSHA will also notify the employee representatives of your request for an informal conference, and they have the right to participate in any informal conference or negotiations between the regional administrator or area director and you, the employer. During the informal conference, you may:
- Obtain a better explanation of the violations cited;
- Obtain a more complete understanding of the specific standards that apply;
- Negotiate and enter into an informal settlement agreement;
- Discuss ways to correct violations;
- Discuss issues concerning proposed penalties;
- Discuss proposed abatement dates and extend the dates if agreeing to the citation;
- Resolve disputed citations and penalties; and
- Obtain answers to any other questions you may have. (OSHA 3000-09R, 2011)
An informal conference is not required, and you must submit a Notice of Intent to Contest in writing to the OSHA area office within 15 working days after receipt of the Citation and Notification of Penalty. “The Notice of Intent to Contest must clearly state what is being contested–the citation, the penalty, the abatement date, or any combination of these factors. In addition, the notice must state whether all the violations on the citation, or just specific violations, are being contested. (For example, “I wish to contest the citation and penalty proposed for items 3 and 4 of the citation issued June 27, 2014”)” (OSHA 3000-09R)
Your case is now in litigation and it may be settled through legal means. Contested cases are handled by the employer and attorneys according to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) procedures, not directly with OSHA.
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Donna McEntee is an Environmental, Safety & Health (ES&H) Solution Manager at Skillsoft.