OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.


November 28, 1990

Mr. George Meyer
Safety Director
Tarco, Inc.
Box 1047
Arvada, Colorado 80001

Dear Mr. Meyer:

Thank you for your letter of June 5, regarding information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) [Publication] 3000, Employer Rights & Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection.

Specifically, you asked for the authority given the OSHA negotiating representative on the following three issues as they relate to informal settlement agreements:


  1. Are there limits on assessments and amounts that can be rescinded?
  2. Has any citation ever been completely withdrawn as a result of negotiations?
  3. Is plea bargaining a part of the process, essentially rewriting a citation with a less severe alleged violation?



In an attempt to make the informal conference a more significant and uniformly used element of the enforcement process, OSHA Area Directors are provided with direction through the [Field Operations Manual] for the informal settlement of cases. This process expedites the correction of hazards by avoiding the delays involved in litigation and provides OSHA and affected employers and employees a forum within which to resolve conflicts without engaging in protracted litigation. Area Directors are authorized to change abatement dates, to reclassify violations (e.g., willful to serious, serious to other-than-serious), and to modify or withdraw a penalty, a citation or cited items if the employer presents evidence during the informal conference which convinces the Area Director that the changes are justified. Any penalty reduction amounting to more than 60 percent of the total for all penalties initially proposed must be approved by the Regional Administrator. All decisions made by an Area Director must be made in accordance with the set guidelines provided by the [FOM]. Adequate documentation of settlement negotiations and justification for any changes are required.

We hope that this information is helpful to you. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 1/21/2009]