What Laws Govern Missouri OSHA Violations?
There are 28 states that have worked with the U.S. Department of Labor (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) to prepare an OSHA-approved state plan. Missouri, however, was not one of those 28 states. Because Missouri has not provided a plan that has been approved, OSHA federal laws and regulations are directly applicable to Missouri construction projects.
Who is Subject to OSHA Regulations?
Contrary to typical belief, are not limited to work performed by public entities or work performed on a public project. OSHA regulations extend to private sector employers, contractors, construction companies and other employers performing work that requires safety for its workers. The imposition of OSHA regulations on private sector employers either comes through an OSHA program set up by the federal government or a plan that has been prepared by the state and approved by U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Safety & Health Administration. A number of states have approved plans (about 28), but Missouri is not one of the states that has an approved OSHA plan. Therefore, Missouri utilizes the United States OSHA plan and is governed by the federal regulations set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations.
What are a few Important Details Regarding OSHA Inspections?
- An inspection for OSHA violations could occur at anytime. OSHA will not call and give you forewarning. The investigations are sometimes conducted on the spur of the moment, so do not be expecting advanced notice before an OSHA inspector arrives on one of your projects.
- There are different types of investigations conducted by the OSHA inspectors. At times the inspector will be physically present and will conduct an on-site inspection. At other times, if the circumstances lend to it, the OSHA inspector will conduct an investigation via phone or facsimile.
- The OSHA inspectors who conduct the investigations on behalf of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are well-versed in the regulations. These officers are trained in the regulations, are experienced in working on jobsites, and know the ins and outs of compliance. It will be difficult to hide any violations, so the best course of action is to know the OSHA regulations and comply with the same.
What Types of Things are OSHA Inspectors Looking For?
Whenever an OSHA inspector visits a job site, the inspector has a checklist that he scours to ensure that the employer is in compliance with the regulations. There is an endless list of OSHA regulations, so where does the employer begin to avoid these claims? The following is a short list of the highest priority items on the OSHA inspector’s violation list:
■ Imminent danger
When an OSHA inspector walks onto the job, they’re looking for a situation where a worker is in imminent danger of bodily harm or injury.
■ Catastrophes / fatalities
It should be no surprise that a catastrophe or a fatality on a construction project may prompt an investigation by OSHA. When the inspector arrives at your workplace, the focus will be on the instrumentality, or lack thereof, that caused the catastrophe or fatality. However, the inspector will already be out on the job and will thoroughly inspect all work being performed, as well as the job site in general, to ensure OSHA compliance.
■ Worker complaints and referrals
When a worker makes a complaint to OSHA about his or her safety on a job site, OSHA takes on a duty to inspect the employer’s operations to assure that all regulations are being followed.
■ Targeted inspections – high injury/illness rates, severe violators
If a jobsite has an inordinate amount of injuries or occurrences that subject the workers to injury, OSHA is going to be all over the jobsite scrutinizing any potential cause. When OSHA has been informed that something is wrong on the project, they will come to investigate and specifically target whatever they believe the root of the problem is. This is what’s commonly referred to as a targeted inspection. As an employer on a construction project, you need to find the root of the problem before the OSHA inspectors do. If you need legal counsel in preventing OSHA violations, contact an OSHA regulations attorney.
■ Follow-up inspections
Whenever there are violations on one of your jobs, the inspectors will usually follow up the with a subsequent inspection to ensure that the OSHA violations were remedied. These inspections are usually aimed at the specific violations that previously occurred, so the employer should be aware of exactly what the OSHA inspector will be investigating.
How is an OSHA Phone or Fax Investigation Conducted?
If the alleged OSHA violation is seemingly minor in the eyes of OSHA, then the administration may simply conduct an investigation via telephone, followed up by a fax detailing the investigation.
If an employer is prompted with such an investigation, time is of the essence.
OSHA requires that the employer respond within 5 working days in writing. The response must include the problems that the employer was able to discern, and the employer must detail the corrective actions taken to rectify OSHA’s concerns.
Navigating OSHA Laws
As a construction company, you face an incredible amount of regulations. After an OSHA violation, you should seek the guidance of a lawyer who knows the process.
In Missouri, it’s apparent that most employers’ goals are to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. Construction projects are no exception. However, construction projects can pose some of the biggest risks and can involve some very complex work.
As a result, the contractor is tasked with a laundry list of regulations to follow such as dealing with OSHA and other regulatory compliance matters. Consequently, it is quite difficult for a contractor to always remain in compliance with OSHA and other regulatory laws.
We understand how difficult this task can be, and our attorneys can counsel you to prevent potential OSHA violations.
In the event that you are already dealing with a violation, our lawyers can help you recover from the OSHA Violation(s) by guiding you through the appeal process.
Remember the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
If you contact us early enough, our lawyers may be able to save you worlds of trouble by preparing and preempting a potential investigation by an OSHA inspector and allowing your company to avoid unnecessary fines as a result of OSHA violations.
If your company is cited for violating OSHA laws, you should hire an attorney who knows the regulations and knows how to deal with the authorities. We can provide assistance for your OSHA violations and advise you on how to prevent such violations or similar occurrences in the future.
Further, our attorneys are cognizant of the importance of minimizing costs and will negotiate with the Department of Labor accordingly.
If you or your company is dealing with a citation for an OSHA violation, contact a St. Louis attorney who is knowledgeable in this area.