Safety Citations & Appeals
Plus, the secrets that can save your company thousands
Like most employers, you are trying to do the right thing, yet you dread the possibility of a government safety inspection at your workplace. That’s why our latest Approach Brain Trust covered the basics of being prepared for an inspection in Washington state, plus what to do if you are cited or fined. More than 40 clients joined the presentation – click below if you missed it.
During the presentation, Julio Salas, safety manager at Approach discussed two industry secrets that can save your company thousands of dollars. Read on to find out more!
What happens in an workplace safety inspection
Your supervisors and employees should be trained that all work MUST stop if an inspector arrives. It’s a good idea to assign a few employees to walk the site and ensure everything is clean and safe before the inspector begins his or her walk around.
Severity of workplace safety violations
In this month’s presentation, Julio explained that each violation is assigned a level of severity:
- General – No risk of harm to employees, such as administrative errors
- Serious – Risk of serious harm to employees
- Willful – Employer did something knowing it could cause harm
As you can probably guess, serious and wilful violations attract higher penalties than general violations. It was also discussed that the employer’s history and demonstrated levels of commitment to safety can also impact the amount of the penalties.
Tip – The official title for a workplace safety inspector is a Certified Safety and Health Official, or CSHO for short. It’s pronounced Co-show in the industry. So, if you see CSHO or hear Co-show, it is just referring to the inspector.
Cost of workplace safety penalties
Violations of workplace safety statutes can easily run to $10,000 or more. The amount for each violation is determined through a combination of four different factors:
Gravity of the violation (Severity x Probability)
Employer acting in good or bad faith
Size of company
History of the company – past three years in Washington state
Julio reminded employers that they do have some control over these factors, especially the determination of good or bad faith. “Keep in mind that having all the required elements of a safety program can demonstrate that you are a good faith employer with an above average safety program, and this can reduce the amount of fines assessed by the inspector.”
Violations of workplace safety statutes can easily run to $10,000 or more.
Discounts for small employers
Many small employers could not survive the impact of a major workplace safety violation. Therefore, discounts are automatically applied based on the number of employees working at smaller companies.
Secret Number 1 – Know the size of your small business
Salas pointed out the importance of knowing exactly how many employees are at your small business, as just one person can make a big difference in the amount of the reduction. “When I was an inspector, many employers did not know how many employees they had. One employee can impact a discount of 20 percent, so be sure you are giving an accurate number to the inspector.”
The resumption hearing is informal, just with a hearings officer. But remember, anything you say is recorded and could be used against you later in the appeal.
Appealing workplace safety citations
The presentation ended with tips on how to appeal, through a process known as a Resumption Hearing. As with all L&I business, you have 15 days to appeal from the date you receive notice.
Secret Number 2 – Inspectors make mistakes
Salas encouraged every employer to review their citations closely and to contest any mistakes they find, saying “In one situation, we found 34 mistakes in a single inspection!” Noting that “many employers just pay the fine because they don’t want to deal with L&I,” Salas reminded employers that this can waste thousands of dollars.
The resumption hearing involves a hearings officer, not the inspector or any attorneys. Therefore, Salas advised participants that a hearing can be effective for reducing the cost of violations without the expense of an attorney.
All about safety violations and appeals
Register now to watch the Brain Trust recording, filled with valuable information and extra tips on how you can reduce your company’s exposure.
If you’re an Approach client, why not book a Safety Visit as well? And, if your business is in Washington state, consider a Safety Consultation from L&I to help prevent accidents and demonstrate your good faith as an employer.