Workplace Health and Safety

Has the Department of Labor & Industries issued a citation to your company for an alleged workplace health or safety violation? Is your company under investigation for a possible citation?

Employer responsibility for health and safety

As an employer, you are responsible for health and safety at your workplace. Your responsibility sometimes extends beyond your own employees, covering other workers as well. These may include employees of subcontractors, leased or temporary employees, and others.

Labor & Industries has extensive regulations for workplace health and safety. Some industries, such as construction, are covered by specifically tailored regulations. Many others do not have industry-specific regulations; they, however, must comply with more general regulations. Even if Labor & Industries has not adopted a regulation, the law places upon employers a general duty to provide their employees with a healthy and safe workplace.

As an employer, you need to know the regulations and duties that apply to you. You need to understand the health and safety hazards that exist in your workplace and adopt feasible means to eliminate or reduce those hazards. Ignorance is not a defense.

Are you facing a health or safety citation?

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Citations for health and safety violations

Labor & Industries issues citations for health and safety violations

Labor & Industries conducts workplace inspections. Some inspections are random, others result from referrals or employee complaints. If the inspection leads Labor & Industries to believe that you have violated a regulation or the general duty, the Department is required to issue a citation. Usually, the citation requires you to abate the violative conditions and may assess civil penalties. The penalties may run several thousand dollars for each alleged violation.

You may appeal a citation

You have the right to appeal a citation to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. This is an independent agency whose three members are appointed by the governor. You must file the appeal within 15 working days of receiving the citation. Most appeals are filed for one of three reasons: an employer disagrees that it has violated the applicable requirements, or believes the penalty is excessive, or believes the violation resulted from employee misconduct.

An appeal is assigned to an industrial appeals judge, who is a lawyer employed by the Board to take evidence and conduct a hearing. The procedures are the same as those used in a civil lawsuit, although the process usually is less formal than in court. After the hearing, the industrial appeals judge prepares a proposed order. A party may ask the full Board to review the proposed order. The Board may adopt, reject or modify the proposed order. The Board’s decision may be appealed to the superior court.