As OSHA defense lawyers we know how unnerving it can be to be cited for a violation. Receiving a citation is just the beginning of the process, though. Once you get an understanding of what you are being cited for, you must act quickly. Contacting the OSHA Area Director within 15 working days of receiving the citation to request an informal conference is highly recommended.
What’s the Purpose of an Informal Conference?
Requesting an informal conference is invaluable because it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your willingness to make improvements in your workplace. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss the citation and to come to some resolution.
Advantages of an Informal Conference
You will have the opportunity to present your case to seek reduced penalties, an extension of abatement dates, reduced severity, or the deletion of the citation. Additionally, you can clarify the abatement procedures, request a reclassification of citations, and obtain more information that will help you decide whether you will contest the citation. This is your opportunity to create open communication with the area director.
Attending the Informal Conference
Send a few key people to the conference, such as a technical expert, a safety expert, and a senior leader to represent your company. During the presentation, it’s important to set the tone early, to focus on factual arguments, and the relief you are seeking. Also, demonstrate your conviction and commitment to investing in a safe and healthy work environment.
Have an understanding of the alleged violation and demonstrate your knowledge of information such as OSHA compliance, manufacturer information, source standards, and operator instructions. Be sure that OSHA has objective evidence regarding each alleged violation. When you know the facts you will be in a much better position to catch mistakes such as whether the wrong standard was cited and whether OSHA standards and procedures for sampling and field operations were followed.
Although OSHA defense attorneys aren’t necessary at informal conferences, always seek legal counsel on the alleged violations and have a “Notice of Contest” letter prepared. Come to the conference ready to negotiate an agreement but be prepared to contest if necessary.
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.