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May 3 — OSHA is looking at how to prompt more employers to reach informal settlements and pay their fines or contest the violations.
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes the project's initial results are “encouraging,” the agency wants to complete the study before making permanent changes to how it follows up with cited employers, an agency representative told Bloomberg BNA May 3.
Prompting the ongoing study are the thousands of employers every year that don't pay their fines and don't respond to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after they've been cited.
In fiscal year 2013, according to OSHA, the agency cited about 25,000 employers and 17.5 percent of the alleged violators never responded to OSHA requests to pay the fines or settle or contest the violations. The unresolved cases were eventually turned over to private debt collectors. OSHA citations that employers don't responded to within 15 working days typically become final orders and can't be reviewed by courts.
To look at how the agency could get more employer responses, OSHA and the Department of Labor contracted with the consulting company Mathematica Policy Research of Princeton, N.J.
Together, they began testing new practices in the second half of 2015 for communicating with employers during and after inspections and developed a report.
Increasing the communication between OSHA area offices and employers saw the number of companies not responding to OSHA citations drop to 13.6 percent, a 3.9 percentage point improvement over the response rate for area offices using established contact practices, the report said.
The percentage of cited employers signing informal settlement agreements increased 6.3 percentage points to 72.7 percent, the study said.
The likelihood of employers contesting the citations didn't change as much. Using the new methods, 7.2 percent of the employers decided to contest their citations, while 7 percent of employers challenged their citations when OSHA offices used the established process.
The focus of the new contact procedures was to make clear the options for cited employers, the report said.
The new contact method called for area offices and inspectors to:
Mathematica concluded the test showed the new contact regimen would result in 750 to 1,000 fewer cases annually being referred to collection agencies. However, OSHA managers found having to make reminder calls to cited employers required a “substantial amount of staff time,” the report said.
Looking for a less time-intensive method, OSHA and Mathematica are conducting a second round of tests to see if a modified version of the contact regimen will produce similar compliance gains, the report said.
OSHA spokeswoman Amanda McClure told Bloomberg BNA, “While it is encouraging to learn that the new procedures increased employer responsiveness after receiving a citation, we’ll want to evaluate all of the evidence from both phases of the trial, which we expect to have by fall 2016.”
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The Mathematica report is available at http://src.bna.com/eC3.
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