You hope you never get an OSHA citation. But should that day ever come, you need to be prepared for what happens next—the "abatement" process.
If OSHA cites your workplace for violations, you must follow prescribed abatement procedures in a timely manner. There are five key steps.
1. Correct. Hazards found during an OSHA inspection must be promptly corrected. Normally, OSHA expects them to be fixed within 30 days. Exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis. OSHA recognizes that some safety or health problems are big or systemic and may take longer to fix. On the other hand, minor violations can often be corrected on the spot with the advice of the inspector.
2. Certify. OSHA requires a letter certifying that the violation has been corrected. The letter must include:
- Inspection, citation, and item numbers for each violation
- A brief statement that the violation was abated, with the date on which the hazard was corrected
- A brief description of how the hazardous condition was abated
- A statement informing OSHA that affected employees and their representatives have been informed of the abatement actions
- A statement assuring OSHA that the information provided is accurate
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3. Notify. Employees exposed to the hazard must be notified about the citation. They have to be provided with:
- The same information given to OSHA concerning actions taken to correct a safety or health violation
- A copy of the abatement certification letter sent to OSHA, which must be posted in the workplace for at least 3 working days after submission to OSHA
If you have mobile work operations or if employees don’t assemble routinely at a central work location, OSHA allows the use of means other than posting to notify employees of abatement. For example:
- Including a copy of the certification letter or a summary in pay envelopes
- Presenting or discussing the contents of the documents at a training, safety, or other meeting with affected employees
- Publishing the contents of the document in an employee newsletter or another general communication medium that reaches affected employees and their representatives
- Posting the document inside the lid of a toolbox or in a visible location in the compartment where the cited equipment is stored
4. Verify. To verify abatement, an organization has to provide OSHA with one or more of the following forms of abatement verification documentation:
- A photograph or videotape of the abated condition
- An invoice or sales receipt for equipment used to achieve abatement
- A report by a safety and health professional describing actions taken to abate the hazard or describing the results of analytical testing that substantiates abatement<
- Documentation from the manufacturer that the article repaired is within the manufacturer’s specifications
- A copy of a signed contract for goods and services (e.g., an evaluation by a safety engineer)
- Records of training completed by employees if the citation is related to training
- A copy of program documents if the citation relates to a missing or inadequate program (e.g., respirator program or hazard communication program)
A written abatement plan must also be provided if:
- The citation is for a serious, willful, or repeat violation, and the abatement period on the citation exceeds 90 calendar days.
- The citation requires an abatement plan.
For long-term abatement projects, progress reports must also be provided if so stated in the citation.
5. Tag. Any cited movable equipment must be tagged with a warning or a copy of the citation. When tagging movable equipment:
- Put a warning tag or a copy of the citation on the operating controls or cited components of the equipment, including rented equipment, immediately after the citation is received.
- On the tag, warn employees about the cited hazard, describing the violation and telling them where to find the complete citation.
You can remove a tag only after you have:
- Corrected the violation and submitted all required abatement verification documents to OSHA
- Permanently removed the cited equipment from service
- Received an order after a hearing contesting a citation that states the citation has been vacated
- Given up control of the equipment (e.g., sold it and placed it under the control of the buyer or returned it to a rental company)
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