After the inspection, the inspector will have a “Closing Meeting” to cover the preliminary findings. This meeting can happen immediately after the inspection or can be scheduled for a future date. At the Closing Meeting the inspector will meet with the OSHA Officer (and management if you request it) to go over all issues noted during the OSHA inspection. This list of issues may include issues that are noted but so minor that they will not end up on the official list. Feel free to ask questions and to volunteer information that could prove you have addressed the issue. Start fixing the problems identified immediately.
What happens after the inspection?
After the Closing Meeting the inspector will return to their office and write up their results. They may call you to get follow up information. Once the report is written it is submitted to their manager. The manager will review the report and create an official citation letter listing each issue, the regulation that was involved and the amount of the fine for each citation. This letter will include information on your rights to contest the OSHA citations and your responsibilities to post the results for your employees and the dates by which you are required to fix the problems. This letter will usually be sent to you within two weeks of the Closing Meeting.
OSHA divides citations between “Serious” and “Non-Serious” categories. Non-Serious violations usually are not fined but can be minimally fined. OSHA increased their fine structure in August 2016 and again in January 2017. Under OSHA’s new charter they can increase their fines each year. Each serious violation now starts at $12,675. There is a series of reductions to the fine that OSHA will apply: 60% for small businesses, 15% off for being “courteous and cooperative,” and 10% if you had an OSHA program in place. (If OSHA notes that this is a repeated violation from a previous inspection or if they determine that it is a “willful” violation the fine starts at $126,749.)
You will then have to submit a form (included in your citation letter) back to OSHA to prove that you have fixed the problems listed within the timeframe allotted. This is called Abatement. Abatement should include a short explanation, supporting documents or even pictures if necessary. You can request an extension if necessary. Failure to abate the citations by the stated date can result in a fine of $12,675.
An important right you have in the inspection process is to contest the citations and fines. The first step of this process is to request an “Informal Conference” with the manager/supervisor who sent you the citation letter. Next month’s final article in the series will be on your right to contest the OSHA findings.