OSHA Gets Boost From Appeals Court

Court of appeals upholds OSHA fall hazard citations, and a new law in California means employers can receive a penalty reduction for fixing a cited hazard

Recently it was released that fall protection violations topped OSHA's list of workplace citations for 2014. Fall protection in construction is a huge deal, and not a topic to take lightly. Another big topic of discussion recently is the misclassification of workers.

Yearlong Investigation Reveals Widespread Worker Misclassification in Construction Industry

So what do these two topics have to do with each other? Well, in September 2011 OSHA issued a serious and a repeat citation to Absolute Roofing & Construction, Inc. for violating fall prevetion regulations. Two Cleveland compliance officers observed a worker performing roof repairs on a steep-pitched roof without any fall protection. The employer appealed to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission claiming the worker was not his employee but an independent contractor. The review commission did not agree.

On September 9, 2014, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheald the Commission's findings, affirming the citations.

Separately, a recent new law in California changes employers' responsibilities for finding and fixing workplace hazards. Under the Assembly Bill 1634, which became law in September 2014, an employer can receive a penalty reduction for fixing a hazard only if the cited hazard is shown to be actually fixed. The law also requires employers to fix the most serious hazards cited by California OSHA more promptly. Employers can delay correcting a cited hazard only during the first appeal. Because California operates its own state OSHA plan, the new law only applies to California OSHA operations.

It remains to be seen how either of these two recent wins for OSHA will affect the rest of the country and the construction industry.