Frequently Asked Questions About OSHA
Hendershot Cowart, P.C. represents employers at all stages of dealings with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, from preparing compliance and safety plans through representation in OSHA-related administrative proceedings.
We have represented businesses in Houston and throughout Texas for more than 30 years, securing powerful results with clear, effective solutions. Below, we provide answers to some of our clients' most frequently asked questions about OSHA inspections and OSHA citations.
Why Is OSHA at My Work Site?
OSHA inspects thousands of workplaces each year. While all workplaces fall under their jurisdiction, the organization focuses on the types of workplaces it considers the most hazardous.
OSHA officers may inspect work sites if:
- A worker is injured or killed
- An employee or former employee files a complaint about safety issues
- An employee complains that he or she has been retaliated against in violation of OSHA law
- OSHA confirms that the company has complied with a previously issued citation.
Why Shouldn't I Just Pay the Penalty?
The consequences of a violation can extend beyond a monetary penalty.
Depending on the workplace hazard that led to the citation, a violation could be classified as:
- De minimis
- Other than serious
For example: A willful violation is issued when an employer is accused of knowingly failing to comply with a legal requirement. If an employer does not contest this violation, it could lead to further legal problems, such as an insurance company voiding coverage or being used as evidence in a lawsuit.
In addition, employers are required to fix (or "abate") hazards uncovered by OSHA. The cost of abatement can be far more than the monetary penalty-it can damage the employer's ability to acquire future business.
What If OSHA Inspected My Work Site, But Not Yet Issued a Citation?
If OSHA has inspected your work site, you should contact an attorney right away. In fact, we recommend that you contact an OSHA defense lawyer as soon as an accident occurs-before an OSHA officer arrives to inspect your work site.
After the inspection, your defense lawyer can work with OSHA to resolve any questions about the employer or the work site-and even help to reduce the chances that a citation will be issued. If a citation is issued, your attorney can assist you during internal settlement conferences and other parts of the OSHA process.
What Documents Do I Need to Defend Against a Citation?
The specific documents you need will to defend against an OSHA citation depend on your situation. Your attorney can explain what documents you will need based on your specific case. Documenting the inspector's activities and employees interviewed during an OSHA inspection is a good start.
In general, you may need documents such as:
- Pictures, including photos of the same things the OSHA inspector took
- Statements from employees and others on site
- Safety manuals
- Sign-in sheets from safety training sessions
- Tool box and tailgate safety meeting notes
- Personnel files, including reprimands
How Will You Defend My Business Against an OSHA Citation?
Our law firm helps businesses with OSHA compliance and OSHA safety training. If your business has received an OSHA citation, we will conduct a full investigation as part of your defense. We have extensive knowledge of OSHA regulations and understand how to apply them to the facts of your situation.
In short, our firm knows how to properly present your case to maximize your odds for a good outcome. We can represent you in all dealings with OSHA, including informal settlement conferences, negotiations, trials, and appeals. Our OSHA law attorneys have decades of extensive experience in developing effective policies and defenses, and we know how to avoid many of the pitfalls that employers can fall into.
What If Someone Else On The Job Site Caused the Safety Hazard?
Some job sites involve more than one employer. When a safety problem happens, OSHA uses a multiemployer enforcement policy to determine which employer will be cited. Under the multiemployer enforcement policy, employers in some circumstances may be cited for a workplace safety hazard even if the employees exposed to the danger work for another employer. The multiemployer enforcement policy is a major reason that employers on job sites should work with an attorney before, during, and after federal safety inspections.
For more information about OSHA claims and OSHA citations, call us at (713) 489-2028 to schedule an initial consultation or fill out our simple online form. In addition to our main offices in Houston, we maintain offices in Sugar Land, Corpus Christi and Galveston that are available by appointment only.