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Appeals Court Case Prevents Inspections From Expanding Beyond Their Original Scope

Of all things, a poultry company may help construction companies in their never-ending struggle with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections. In a ruling described as a “game changer,” the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mar-Jac’s Poultry plant in Gainesville, GA, against OSHA’s attempt to expand an investigation beyond its original scope. 

Below, an Alabama OSHA attorney discusses this case and its immediate impact on employers in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Contractors and construction companies emboldened by this ruling will hopefully be more willing to exercise their rights when faced with a surprise OSHA inspection. 

Wear This Box 

Following an accident at the Georgia processing facility, a team of OSHA compliance officers were sent to the location for an inspection. While Mar-Jac is subject to random inspections, this inspection was brought on by a specific incident. Inspectors found possible violations related to the accident as well as other accidents reported in OSHA 300 logs. 

Related: Understanding OSHA Inspection Criteria

OSHA cited these findings as the basis for expanding their investigation to cover the entire facility. Mar-Jac refused, even going so far as to require an inspector to wear a box over their head in order to prevent them from seeing other hazards while investigating the injured worker’s tools. OSHA pushed for a warrant, and the dispute made its way through the court system all the way to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The Final Verdict 

The 11th Circuit upheld the decision of the lower courts and concluded that there was no probable cause to expand the scope of the inspection. Furthermore, the appeals court held that “hazards” and “violations” are two separate things and that the presence of a hazard does not necessarily establish a violation. 

Bottom line: Whether based on an accident or OSHA 300 logs, there must be probable cause before OSHA can expand an investigation to any other part of your site. 

A Victory for Contractors Everywhere

This is an incredible victory for employers in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, especially for contractors who have experienced an injury on their jobsite despite their best efforts to provide a hazard-free work environment. But while this decision directly impacts the Southeast, it may soon have widespread ramifications. 

Related: How OSHA Representation Can Save Contractors Money 

If you are faced with an impending OSHA investigation, don’t be afraid to exercise your rights and exert ownership of your site and work practices. An Alabama OSHA attorney can determine the full extent of your rights and assist when OSHA turns up on your doorstep. For an ally that will stand with during an investigation and defend against citations, consult the experienced OSHA attorneys from Cotney Construction Law. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Alabama OSHA lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.