Uh oh. An OSHA inspector shows up at your business. He uncovers a violation, and you don’t dispute it. How do you limit your company’s financial liability?
One way is to correct the problem quickly, as a recent case before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) shows.
An OSHA inspector visited a worksite in Tarrytown, NY, where MVM Contracting Corp. was hired to perform construction and renovation work.
After the inspection, OSHA issued a willful violation to MVM, saying it failed to protect employees working in an excavation from a cave-in. Employees had been working in an excavation without shoring that was more than five feet deep. The penalty: $21,000.
MVM didn’t contest the citation itself, just its classification as willful. An OSHRC law judge heard the appeal and reclassified the violation as serious. The fine dropped to $2,100.
OSHA appealed to the full commission, which reinstated the willful classification and the $21,000 fine.
This is how OSHRC came to its decision: The first time he visited the MVM worksite, the inspector provided the superintendent with detailed information about OSHA’s excavation standards and told him the company was in violation.
The inspector returned four days later to find no additional protection provided in the excavation. The inspector testified that the superintendent told him employees had worked in the excavation after the first inspection without cave-in protection.
OSHRC says the superintendent’s knowledge of the excavation standard and his conscious failure to bring the worksite into compliance amounted to a willful violation.
In a nutshell: The company would have faced a fine only 1/10th the size if it would have corrected the violation before the inspector’s next visit or barred employees from entering the excavation until corrections were made.
(Secretary of Labor v. MVM Contracting Corp., OSHRC, No. 07-1350, 7/20/10.) Click here for a PDF of the OSHRC decision.