As seen in Hammer & Dolly

In previous articles, we have discussed being proactive with regard to the most commonly cited OSHA safety regulations as they pertain to the body shop environment. We’ve also covered increased inspections due to OSHA’s Isocyanates Enforcement Program as well as how to handle an inspection when it occurs. Now the question is, “What happens after the inspector leaves?”

Hopefully, you were respectful, attentive and truthful during the inspection process. During her visit, your training records and safety programs were reviewed. She observed employee work habits (e.g. PPE usage), and made observations regarding unsafe conditions or violations (e.g. tripping hazards). She probably also interviewed one or more of your employees to get a feel for the overall “safety culture” at your workplace.

After the inspector has left your facility, use your notes to fix any deficiencies right away. The longer you wait, the less time there is for good, cost-effective corrections.

Approximately 6-8 weeks after the inspection, a certified letter (Notice of Violation) will arrive at your business. Read the citations and call the OSHA inspector if you need any clarification. The NOV imposes some immediate responsibilities and deadlines.

You must post a copy of each citation at or near where it occurred for a minimum of 3 working days or until corrected, whichever is longer (weekends don’t count).

Upon receipt of the NOV, a 15 workday clock also begins to tick. During this time, you must either pay the fines or give notice (by fax, email, or certified letter) that you are going to contest the violations.

Violations fall into five main categories; willful, serious, other-than-serious, failure to abate, and repeat. Each willful violation carries a fine between $5,000 and $70,000 and is imposed for intentional disregard or indifference to employee safety and health.

Both serious and other-than-serious violations carry fines up to $7,000 per citation. The main difference between the two is the likelihood of serious injury or death. Lack of Hazard Communication training or respirator medical evaluations are examples of serious violations, while failure to display the OSHA employee rights poster falls in the other-than-serious category.

Unless it was corrected during the inspection, each violation will have an abatement (correction) date. Abatement documentation, e.g. photos, receipts, and/or training records, must be submitted to OSHA. Do not falsify documentation as it is a federal crime to do so. Failure to abate penalties can amount to $7,000 per day.

If, in the previous 5 years, you have been cited for the same or substantially similar violation, it is considered repeat with penalties up to $70,000.

On a side note, there are also severe penalties (both state and federal), if you attempt to retaliate against an employee who has exercised his rights under the OSH Act.

Just thinking about an OSHA inspection is stressful. I hope the information we have presented makes it a little less so. Knowing how the process works should make it easier to prepare for and to get through. If you have any questions or need assistance, please give me a call.