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Companies with OSHA Violations Face New Scrutiny

The White House is targeting contractors with poor safety records. An executive order signed late last month is intended to create greater scrutiny of the safety records of companies that receive federal contracts. The order, signed July 31, will require that companies when seeking a federal contract must disclose labor law violations. That includes violations handled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Such violations can already make it more difficult for a business to obtain government contracts. The new executive order affects contracts for goods and services - including construction - that exceed $500,000. In these cases, companies must disclose whether they have had any OSHA violations or violations of 14 other labor laws within the past three years.

The White House says it is "cracking down on federal contractors who break the law." But as an article published by Safety News Alert points out, the executive order is aimed at the worst violators. The executive order stipulates that contracting officers take into account only the "most egregious violations." Each agency must also designate an official to provide consistent guidance about whether a contractor has shown a lack of integrity. The idea is that contractors who repeatedly receive violations will not be able to obtain contracts.

The executive order does not mean that all companies with OSHA violations will be barred from contracts, but it does make it even more important for employers to treat all such citations seriously. Even if a citation comes with a fairly low fine, it can have a significant impact on the future of an employer's business. Seemingly minor violations could become egregious if they are not resolved or if OSHA issues repeat violations.

These broader consequences are a major reason why employers work with experienced lawyers to handle OSHA citations. Employers must be aware of issues created by citations and understand that although the initial fine may be small, the long-term consequences can be very significant. An experienced attorney can work with you on strategies to avoid violations, defend against citations, abate the hazard, reduce the classification of the violation and reduce the long-term effects of an OSHA violation on your company.

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