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What options do employers have when OSHA levies a citation?

Being subjected to a random, unannounced inspection conducted by Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials can cause a major disruption within a company. In the wake of the OSHA's actions, an employer may also be taken off guard by a citation for a safety violation.

Being faced with sanctions - no matter how significant - is something any employer wants to avoid. In some cases, it might seem easiest to pay the fine, take corrective measures and try to move on. However, taking this course of action could cause a company to be labeled "unsafe," even if the citation is inaccurate.

Caught in this situation, it's reasonable to wonder what options are available to companies that would like to challenge a citation. As such, it may be helpful to understand OSHA's appeal process.

The first step to appealing a workplace safety violation is to act swiftly. According to OSHA, an appeal must be launched within 15 business days from the time that the citation is received. For a relatively small employer, stepping up to this demand may be particularly daunting without trusted guidance.

In contesting the OSHA violation, employers can raise issues with all or some parts of the citation, including the specific violation, the suggested fine and the date by which corrective action must be taken. Each component of a citation places a burden on an employer, so it's worth considering what is truly fair or accurate.

Another aspect of the appeals process that's worth mentioning is the option to request an informal conference with an OSHA official. The agency indicates that this is a chance for employers to gain more insight into the specifics of the citation before moving forward with an appeal.

Once an appeal has been filed, the employer will have to present a case before an administrative judge. Even though this hearing doesn't occur within the walls of a courtroom, representation may provide necessary support.

Employers should know that options are available when OSHA officials decide to issue a citation. In other words, being subjected to penalties and mandated abatement isn't necessarily a foregone conclusion

Source: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection," accessed May 14, 2014