Most companies know that workplace safety is important, and they do their best to follow regulations. Still, mistakes happen and even cautious companies will sometimes commit OSHA violations. A citation is a dreaded event, to be sure, but what about the aftermath? How should you proceed once your violation is on the books?
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to turn things around. In fact, 60 of the 330 companies in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2012 obtained removals from the program within two years. By fully understanding your rights and responsibilities following a violation, you not only can restore good standing with OSHA—you can actually turn your business around for the better and provide a safer, more productive workplace. Here’s how.
Understanding Your Violation
Understanding your violation is the first step in avoiding the same or similar issues in the future. OSHA outlines 4 major types of violations:
- Willful: A violation in which the employer purposefully disregards safety regulations or acts with clear indifference to employee safety.
- Serious: The workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would likely result in serious physical harm or death.
- Repeated: The organization has been cited previously for the same or similar condition.
- Other-than-Serious: Violations that directly relate to job safety and health, but that don’t carry the potential for severe physical harm or death.
To better understand the reasons for your citation, you can also request an informal conference with your OSHA area director. These conferences give you the opportunity to obtain a more thorough explanation for your violations; learn more about the applicable rules; discuss corrective actions; and obtain answers to other questions. You can also use these meetings to negotiate different abatement dates and resolve disputed violations.
One of your first steps following the violation should be to notify your OSHA area director by letter within 15 business days that you’re taking the appropriate corrective actions that were set forth in your notice. This correspondence is referred to as the Letter of Corrective Action, and it must explain the specific corrective actions you’ve taken, as well as when they were performed.
OSHA also requires violators to post copies of the OSHA notice near the places where they occurred within your worksites. This step is critical in making employees aware of the hazards to which they may be exposed. This notice must stay up for three days or until the hazard is gone, whichever is longer.
In most cases, your OSHA auditor will outline specific actions you must take to provide for a safer workplace, and those actions will be provided in the notice you receive. These are the steps you’ll be required by law to take before OSHA will sign off on your work.
Often, however, these actions aren’t enough to truly protect your workers from the inherent hazards of your jobsites. OSHA may mandate that you provide certain personal protective equipment, for instance, but they probably won’t provide guidance for implementing, maintaining, inspecting and replacing that equipment. In situations such as these, you and your safety team will need to think ahead to determine what policy and procedural changes will improve worker safety long after the violation has been handled. Ultimately, these are the changes that will prevent you from coming under strict OSHA scrutiny in the future.
Violations often occur when employees aren’t sufficiently trained. To make sure your workers understand OSHA’s rules, your safety policies and the hazards they face during specific tasks, you’ll need to conduct regular safety training classes. One of the best ways to keep track of these classes—who’s completed them, who hasn’t and which employees are due for re-training—is to implement an electronic safety training management system.
Never let a safety policy slip through the cracks again. Use BasicSafe’s Safety Audit Management Software to assist your internal auditors in identifying potential risks.