The Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to enforce its policy of assessing safety violations on a company-wide basis. OSHA has assessed repeat violation penalties when a multi-location employer has been cited for the same or similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at two or more of its locations within the last five years.
In the past, OSHA would issue citations and assess penalties only for repeat violations occurring at the same facility. Regardless of criticism, OSHA has remained unwavering in defending the need for this enforcement practice.
OSHA's Policy on repeat violations should be of great concern to multi-location companies. A repeat violation will carry a mandatory fine of up to $70,000 for each OSHA violation, and this will apply no matter the size or scope of the company's geographical presence and the breadth of the company’s products or service lines. OSHA's policy concerning repeat violations has allowed the agency to assess repeat violation penalties against multi-location companies if it has found the same or similar unsafe condition at any of the company's other locations within the previous five years.
Recently, OSHA proposed a penalty of $66,000 against a company for a repeat OSHA violation at the company's "A" location, and a penalty of $70,000 for the repeat OSHA violation at their "B" location. An OSHA Regional Administrator said, "It is unacceptable for this company to continue repeating these violations, which are common in this industry, and put workers at serious risk. Management has a legal responsibility to inspect their locations, identify potential hazards and quickly eliminate them to ensure worker safety health."
To help avoid and eliminate repeat violations, multi-location companies can use a well defined education and communication plan. Safety regulations and information must be properly communicated in a timely manner horizontally to all locations, and vertically through all departments. It is of the utmost importance to take affirmative action across all of the company's locations. Consider the following:
- Incorporate a safety director to coordinate training, communication and compliance initiatives
- If appropriate, designate regional safety officers to evaluate the facilities in their region, regularly confer with each other and report to the national safety director
- Assign a safety rep at each location to routinely monitor operations for safety compliance and report routinely to the company’s regional safety officers
- Immediately share safety information regarding safety issues horizontally and vertically within the organization, especially arising from an OSHA inspection or citation, in order to immediately address and eliminate the potential or already existing hazards at other locations
- Make available real-time electronic databases, training and reporting to create transparency for the purpose of timely training, standardization, corrections and improvements with the goal of abating serious injuries and complaints to OSHA
As you've seen, multiple location citations from OSHA can be very costly. Implementing procedures like those listed above will help reduce accidents and injuries while reducing the likelihood of receiving heavy fines.