What to Do When You Get an OSHA Violation (Before Litigation)
Construction sites often involve accidents, as much as employers try to avoid them, and despite best efforts to keep a construction suite as safe as possible. When any kind of accident happens there can be investigations by the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA). If your business or company is subject to an OSHA investigation, do you know how to respond?
Compliance with Deadlines
First, like any procedure, if you are contesting the citation or the fine contained in it, you must comply with the strict time frames in the notice or in the violation. Missing the deadline can lead to you owing the full amount of the OSHA fine, and thus, waiving any defenses to the fine you may otherwise have. You will even lose the right to contest the violation in court, not just the right to contest it with OSHA.
Of course, you may not want to dispute or contest the violation. By law, you are allowed to make whatever corrections are required in the notice of violation in the time frame provided, and pay the fine listed in the citation. In some cases, this may be easier, and more economical, than contesting the fine.
Notice of Contest
If you do not agree with the violation you can send what is known as a “Notice of Contest” to OSHA. That notice must be sent within 15 days of your receipt of the violation. The 15 days does not include weekends or holidays, and it does not include the day the notice was received.
If you miss the deadline, you can ask for a waiver or extension, if you can show “excusable neglect.” But this is very subjective and why spend the extra time and money fighting it, when you can just respond in the time frame provided.
Posting the Notice
The notice that you receive from OSHA must be posted publicly, at the construction or work site, and must remain posted for the longer of either 3 days or until the violation is corrected. This posting requirement is mandatory, even if you are disputing the contents of the violation. OSHA can assess additional fines and penalties for the failure to post the violation.
The Informal Meeting
If you do contest the violation and do so within the 15 days, you have the option to ask for an informal meeting or conference with a local OSHA director. This conference can be valuable in helping you understand the violation, and possibly negotiating a settlement informally. This conference must be requested within the 15 day period, and the conference does not delay or postpone the 15 day time frame.
You do not have to request the conference, but if you do, OSHA can use your statements or information it gathers during the informal conference against you later on, if the violation is not corrected or resolved.
If you are unable to resolve the claim informally, and you have contested the claim, OSHA will proceed to file a complaint, and the matter will be referred for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Questions about problems on a construction site? Call our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 for a consultation.