The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says companies cited for federal workplace safety violations have 15 business days from receipt to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or file a notice to contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Companies can often win reductions in proposed fines through informal talks with regulators, but settling citations is not as easy as it was. OSHA routinely agrees to reduce civil fines during informal settlement talks in exchange for companies agreeing to immediately correct hazards, according to a June report by the Washington-based Center for Progressive Reform. The report indicates that OSHA is unable to order employers to immediately fix dangerous conditions under federal law, but achieving significant fine reductions during the informal conference process is more difficult. A 2010 OSHA memorandum changed the agency's penalty policies, including requiring the approval of regional administrators for any reduction above 30 percent, say legal experts. OSHA area directors may agree to reduce the fine but generally will not withdraw all citations or downgrade willful or repeat citations with the highest penalties. Employers with multiple sites should reinforce to employees how important it is to immediately forward citations to the health and safety team. OSHA's changing penalty structure will likely come into play in decisions on whether to contest fines and citations when it takes effect Aug. 1 because the maximum fines will increase roughly 78 percent, which could encourage more employers to fight back.
Business Insurance (07/18/16) Gonzalez, Gloria