Nobody wants an accident to happen or unsafe conditions to exist on a jobsite, but these circumstances do occur and can result in citations being issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Citation classifications include: other than serious, serious, repeat, and willful. Dallas-based lawyer Aaron R. Ramirez with the firm Epstein Becker Green Wickliff & Hall, P.C., offers some advice on dealing with citations and related jobsite inspections:
• Contest It
“When he's issued a citation, it's easy for a remodeler to think, ‘I'll just pay the $500 fine and be done with it,'” Ramirez says. “But it's important to contest all citations, because leaving them on your record can lead to being charged with a ‘repeat' level citation, which carries with it increased fines that can range up to $70,000.”
• Timely Response
OSHA can investigate an employer by issuing a letter or by conducting an on-site inspection. “An inspection usually will not occur if the response to a letter is timely, factual, and demonstrates that the hazard does not exist or that it will be corrected by a specific date,” Ramirez says.
• Legal Counsel
During an on-site inspection, Ramirez suggests that the remodeler engage legal counsel early, when the investigation first starts.
• Single Point of View
“Always have a safety representative or an officer from your firm accompany the OSHA inspector anywhere they go on site,” he advises. “That person should be the sole company spokesperson who presents a single point of view.” Also, by accompanying the OSHA official, Ramirez notes, you know who has been interviewed, so you can also speak with that individual to determine what issues arose that you may later be questioned about.
• Don't Volunteer
“Legal counsel should be present if an OSHA official wants to speak with company management and before any documents are passed on that have been requested,” Ramirez says. “Do not volunteer any information that is not requested.”
Handling OSHA citations and inspections in a prudent fashion, informed by legal counsel, can prevent complications not only in your relationship with OSHA, but in any civil lawsuits that may arise from the circumstances as well.