Worker complaints: Not following up can drag out OSHA’s legal process

by on March 13, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

If you end up settling an OSHA fine, it’s a good idea to close the loop with workers.

In one case, OSHA responded to a worker’s complaint by inspecting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The agency alleged six violations, with a proposed fine of $7,500.

Museum officials responded as you’re supposed to – they quickly fixed the problems and wrote a letter to OSHA certifying they had done so. OSHA, in turn, settled the case for $3,700, dropped two of the violations and reclassified one from serious to other-than-serious.

The administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing the case accepted the settlement. Happy ending, right? Not so fast.

The worker who complained wrote a letter to OSHA saying he wasn’t sure how to give his input – and that the museum hadn’t fixed all the violations.

The museum argued the matter was settled and OSHA’s deadline for hearing the worker’s input on settlements was past. No dice, the OSHA Review Commission said. The ALJ should reopen the case and hear out the worker. Settlement scuttled.

Bottom line: Any safety fixes should get as much worker buy-in as possible. Otherwise, workers can complicate OSHA’s legal process.

Cite: Sec’y of Labor v. Metropolitan Museum, No. 08-0170, OSHRC.

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