Federal Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection-1996
After an Inspection
An inspection of your workplace was conducted in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Executive Order 12196, and 29 CFR Part 1960, Basic Program Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs and Related Matters. The compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) who conducted the inspection has found conditions that are in violation of the Act, Executive Order 12196, or 29 CFR Part 1960, and you have been issued a Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions, OSHA-2H Form (OSHA Notice) that explains in detail the exact nature of the alleged violation(s).
This pamphlet contains important information regarding your rights and responsibilities under the Act, Executive Order 12196, and 29 CFR Part 1960. For each apparent violation found during the inspection, the compliance officer discussed the following with you:
- The nature of the violation,
- Possible abatement measures you may take to correct the violative condition, and
- Possible abatement dates you may be required to meet.
Types of Violations
- WILLFUL: A willful violation is defined as a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
- SERIOUS: A serious violation exists when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation.
- REPEATED: A Federal agency may be cited for a repeated violation if the agency has been cited previously for the same or a substantially similar condition and, for a serious violation, OSHA's regionwide (see last page) inspection history for the agency lists a previous OSHA Notice issued within the past five years; or, for an other-than-serious violation, the establishment being inspected received a previous OSHA Notice issued within the past five years.
- OTHER-THAN-SERIOUS: A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but is not serious in nature, is classified as "other-than-serious."
When you receive an OSHA Notice, you must post it (or a copy of it) at or near the place where each violation occurred to make employees aware of the hazards to which they may be exposed. The OSHA Notice must remain posted for 3 working days or until the hazard is abated, whichever is longer. (Saturdays, Sundays and Federal holidays are not counted as working days).
As an employer who has been cited, you may:
- Correct the condition by the date set in the OSHA Notice and/or,
- Request an Informal Conference within 15 working days from the time you received the OSHA Notice with the OSHA Area Director to discuss the violations and/or the abatement dates.
How to Comply
For violations cited in the OSHA Notice, you must promptly notify the OSHA Area Director by letter that you have taken the appropriate corrective action within the time set forth in the OSHA Notice. The notification you send the Area Director is generally referred to as a LETTER OF CORRECTIVE ACTION. It must explain the specific action taken with regard to the violation and state the date each corrective action was taken.
If you have abatement questions after the inspection, they should be discussed with the Area Director in the informal conference.
When the OSHA Notice permits an extended period of time for abatement, you must insure that employees are adequately protected during this time. If this is the case, you must provide OSHA with a periodic progress report on your actions taken in the interim.
You may request an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director to discuss the violations. You may use this opportunity to do any of the following:
- Obtain a better explanation for the violations cited.
- Obtain a more complete understanding of the specific standards that apply.
- Discuss ways to correct violations.
- Discuss problems concerning the abatement dates.
- Discuss problems concerning employee safety practices.
- Resolve disputed violations.
- Obtain answers to any other questions you may have.
You are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to have an informal conference if you foresee any difficulties in complying with any part of the OSHA Notice. Employee representatives have the right to participate in any informal conference or negotiations between the Area Director or Regional Administrator and the employer.
If you agree that the violations do exist, but you have a valid reason for wishing to extend the abatement date(s), you may discuss this with the Area Director during the informal conference. The Area Director may issue an amended OSHA Notice that changes the abatement date prior to the expiration of the 15 working day period.
Every effort will be made to resolve the issues at an informal conference. If, however, an issue is not resolved by the Area Director, a summary of the discussion together with the agency's position on the unresolved issues shall be forwarded to the Federal Agency Program Officer (FAPO) within 5 working days of the informal conference.
- The FAPO/Regional Administrator will confer with the appropriate Regional agency official before making a decision on the unresolved issues.
- If the FAPO/Regional Administrator, in consultation with the Area Director, decides that the item in question should remain unchanged on the OSHA Notice, the appropriate agency officials shall be advised.
- If there is still an unresolved issue after the Regional review, the agency may send a letter of appeal to OSHA's Office of Federal Agency Programs (OFAP).
- OFAP will review the disputed issues and discuss these with top agency officials, as appropriate, to obtain resolution. The decision at the National Office level, in consultation with the Regional Administrator, FAPO, and Area Director, is final.
- Under the OSHA Act, Executive Order 12196 and 29 CFR Part 1960, Federal agencies do not have the right to contest the OSHA Notice.
Petition for Modification of Abatement (PMA)
Abatement dates are assigned on the basis of the best information available at the time the OSHA Notice is issued. When you are unable to meet an abatement date because of uncontrollable events or other circumstances, you may file a Petition for Modification of Abatement (PMA) with the OSHA Area Director.
The petition must be in writing and must be submitted no later than one working day after the abatement date. To show clearly that you have made a good-faith effort to comply, the PMA must include all of the following information before it can be considered:
- Steps you have taken in an effort to achieve compliance and dates they were taken;
- Additional time you need to comply;
- Why you need the additional time;
- Interim steps you are taking to safeguard your employees against the cited hazard(s) until the abatement; and
- A certification that the petition has been posted, the date of posting and, when appropriate, a statement that the petition has been furnished to an authorized representative of the affected employees. The petition must remain posted for 10 working days, during which employees may file an objection.
- A PMA may be granted or objected to by the OSHA Area Director. If a PMA is granted, a monitoring inspection may be conducted to ensure that conditions are as they have been described and that adequate progress toward abatement has been made.
When agreement to extend the abatement date cannot be reached at the Area Office, the agency may bring unresolved issues to the Regional Administrator/FAPO for resolution with his counterpart in the agency. Issues not resolved at the regional level shall be forwarded to the Director, OFAP, for resolution with agency headquarters in consultation with the Regional Administrator, the FAPO, and the Area Director.
Further information on PMAs may be obtained from any OSHA Area/District office.
Agency heads may apply for approval of an alternate standard where deemed necessary and, after consulting with employees or their representatives, including appropriate safety and health committees, notify the Secretary of Labor and request approval of such standards. The Secretary will not approve alternate standards unless it provides affected employees equivalent or greater protection.
The agency head must provide the Secretary with the following:
- A statement of why the agency cannot comply with the OSHA standard or wants to adopt an alternate standard;
- A description of the alternate standard;
- An explanation of how the alternate standard provides equivalent or greater protection for the affected employees;
- A description of interim protective measures afforded employees until a decision is rendered by the Secretary of Labor; and
- A summary of written comments, if any, from interested employees, employee representatives, and occupational safety and health committees.
Employees and other interested groups are encouraged to participate in the alternate standard process.
Employee Courses of Action
Employees or their authorized representatives may object to any or all of the abatement dates set for violations if they believe them to be unreasonable. A written notice of their objections must be filed with the OSHA Area Director within 15 working days after the employer receives the OSHA Notice.
The filing of an employee objection does not suspend the employer's obligation to abate the hazard(s).
Employees also have the right to object to a PMA. Such objections must be in writing and must be sent to the Area Office within 10 days of service or posting.
Follow-up Inspection and Failure to Abate
If you receive a Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions, a followup inspection may be conducted to verify that you have done the following:
- Posted the OSHA Notice as required,
- Corrected the violations as required in the OSHA Notice, and/or
- Adequately protected employees and made appropriate progress in correcting the hazards during multi-step or lengthy abatement periods.
- Any new violations discovered during a followup inspection will be cited, as well as any hazards which have not been abated by the abatement date so specified on the OSHA Notice. The latter violations will be cited in the form of a Failure to Abate Notice.
Executive Order 12196 and 29 CFR Part 1960.46 prohibit Federal agencies from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who has exercised any right under these laws, including the right to make safety and health complaints or to request an OSHA inspection. In addition, Federal employees may have protection for such activity under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.
Complaints from employees who believe they have been discriminated against will be investigated by the Office of Special Counsel except in those agencies not covered by the Whistleblower Act. Agencies exempted from the Whistleblower Act are:
- A government corporation, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority;
- the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, or certain other intelligence agencies excluded by the President;
- the General Accounting Office;
- the U.S. Postal Service or Postal Rate Commission;
- the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and,
- Federal prisoners.
If the Federal employee's agency is exempted from the Whistleblower Act, the alleged reprisal is forwarded to the agency's Designated Agency Safety and Health Official (DASHO).
There is no time limit for filing a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel. To obtain further information on this matter, employees may contact OSHA and/or the Office of Special Counsel.
Providing False Information
All information reported to OSHA by employers and employees must be accurate and truthful.
For further information and assistance, please contact your OSHA Area Director.
A single free copy of the following materials can be obtained from the OSHA Publications Office, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N3101, Washington, D.C. 20210, (202) 219-4667
- Chemical Hazard Communication (OSHA 3084)
- How to Prepare For Workplace Emergencies (OSHA 3088)
- Job Hazard Analysis (OSHA 3071)
- 29 CFR Part 1960, Basic Program Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs and Related Matters
Recordkeeping and Reporting Guidelines for Federal Agencies (OSHA 2014) can be obtained from OSHA, Office of Federal Agency Programs, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N3112, Washington, D.C. 20210, (202) 219-9329.