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Dec 4, 2017, 3:15am EST

If your company has been inspected and violations have been noted, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has six months to send a list of citations.

If your company receives a citation, it will include a list of all violations, proposed penalties for each of those violations, and a timeframe by which the cited hazard must be corrected.

Don’t panic. There are three things you need to do after you receive an OSHA citation.

First: Post it

Be sure to post a copy of each citation at or near the place the violation(s) occurred for three days or until the violation(s) is corrected, whichever is longer. This is required.

Citations that cannot be posted near the violation(s) must be posted in a prominent place where all affected employees will see it (e.g., the cafeteria or break room).

Second: Review it

Carefully review the citation and associated penalties. The penalties outlined in the citation are proposed penalties, not final penalties. These are based on the violation type and several other factors, including:

  • The gravity of the violation, which is the primary consideration. OSHA looks at the severity of the injury or illness that could result from the alleged violation and the probability that an injury or illness could occur.
  • The size of the business, because small businesses usually don’t have the financial or safety resources available to large companies. This means that under OSHA’s penalty structure, small employers are eligible for a larger penalty reduction than large employers. However, if the gravity and number of violations indicates a lack of concern for employee safety, only a partial reduction, rather than a full reduction, may be recommended.
  • Documentation that the employer is trying to provide a safe and healthful workplace in “good faith.” This must be a written safety and health program. No reduction will be given if the employer doesn’t have one.
  • Quick fixes that are done for violations immediately in the presence of the compliance officer.
  • A history showing that the employer hasn’t been cited for any serious, willful, or repeat violations in the last five years.

Once all of the details of the citation have been read and understood, a company has several options for how to proceed.

Third: abate it

Also included in the citation is the abatement period. This is the timeframe by which the violation must be corrected. OSHA typically sets this to be the shortest interval within which they feel the employer can reasonably be expected to correct the violation. It’s always indicated as a specific date, not a number of days.

Typically, you would need to make the correction within 30 days from when the citation was issued. In some situations, abatement can’t be completed within 30 days (e.g., new parts or equipment need to be ordered, delivered, and installed). In these cases, OSHA would grant more than 30 days to fix the problem.

At this point, your company can agree to the Citation and Notification of Penalty and correct the cited condition and pay any penalties, or it can contest the citation, proposed penalty, and/or abatement date.

Before deciding on either of these options, a company can request an informal conference with an OSHA area director to discuss any issues related to the citation and notification of penalty.

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