The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hands out fines for violations of its rules every day to companies that have failed to pass a site inspection. These financial penalties can be substantial, especially if you run a small business that is unable to absorb the cost without laying off employees or shrinking your operations. But employers should know that they can appeal these violations if they feel the penalty was excessive or disagree with the judgment of the OSHA representative inspector.
When can an appeal be made?
Within 15 days of a citation, an employer can file a written appeal to the local OSHA office, which will be forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), an independent body that mediates disputes between OSHA and the companies it fines.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that a business can appeal to the local OSHA Area Director, who is allowed to enter into settlements with those companies who have been issued citations for safety violations. Doing so can help speed up the appeals process and avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle that may not end in the appealing party's favor, should they choose to go to the OSHRC.
What other option for appeal is available?
Employers can also appeal an abatement ruling by the inspector. If the OSHA area office requires your business to correct a safety hazard, and for various reasons you are unable to do so in good faith, it may be possible to reach an agreement with OSHA with terms that are more favorable to your position.
But generally, it is a good idea to avoid the appeals process for OSHA violations by not receiving them at all. This is made easier with the use of mobile safety inspection software such as IndustrySafe, which provides valuable tools and resources to help you make your workplace safe for employees.