Ruling May Let OSHA Compel Abatement at Locations Where No Violation Has Been Documented

An Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (OSHRC) judge has ruled that OSHA can force multiple-location businesses with repeat, severe violations in some of their locations to prove to OSHA that they’re compliant in all of their locations. This process is called abatement. When OSHA orders an abatement, it requires employers to follow a series of involved steps to correct hazards in their facilities, including:

  • Fixing the hazard for which they have been cited
  • Certifying that the hazard has been fixed
  • Notifying employees of the fix
  • Sending documentation to OSHA confirming the elimination of the hazard
  • Tagging certain cited equipment in their facilities with warning tags and/or copies of the OSHA citation

Implementing all of these required steps can be expensive and time-consuming. This new ruling would mean that, in certain cases, OSHA can require companies to follow the above steps to show OSHA that no hazards exist even in facilities that OSHA has not yet visited to determine hazards/violations, if enough hazards are found in other locations.

This ruling stems from a 2014 case in which OSHA cited Central Transport LLC — a manager of shipping terminals — for repeated violations. It also ordered that the company conduct an enterprise-wide abatement of these hazards.

In the new ruling denying this appeal, OSHRC Judge Carol Baumerich made clear she believed there was already excellent evidence to support the idea that violations likely exist across Central Transport’s facilities, and that that was enough to uphold the abatement order.