Service to post employers’ replies to inspections

A new Internet service is offering a voice to employers who feel they have been wronged by federal safety inspectors, allowing them to post a rebuttal to what they say are unfounded charges of safety violations.

The service is being offered by OSHA Data, a private company in Maplewood, NJ. President Matthew Carmel explains that inspections by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Admini-stration (OSHA) may result in findings that unfairly characterize a company as "unsafe" or as having increased loss potential. With the new service offered by his company, employers will have the option to upload rebuttal statements, which will then be made available on the Internet.

Carmel is known as a critic of OSHA inspection practices, and he says the rebuttal service could fill an important need for employers who feel they have been mistreated by the safety inspectors. An inspector’s opinion may be based on highly subjective criteria, he says, and the inspector may lack the formal industry-specific training required to fairly assess potential hazards.

Many don’t request a review

Employers can seek judicial review through the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), but Carmel says many choose not to for a variety of reasons.

The findings of all OSHA inspections are made public by the government on the Internet and through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) without an opportunity for employers to present their viewpoint, he notes. There are many potential ramifications.

The findings are increasingly scrutinized as part of due diligence in business acquisitions, litigation, contract pre-qualification screening, credit analysis, insurance underwriting, investigative news reporting, and socially responsible investing. Companies may thus be unfairly disadvantaged, he says.

As part of Carmel’s new service, employers will be given an opportunity to upload a rebuttal statement for each distinct OSHA compliance inspection performed within a rolling three-year retrospective time period based on the inspection opening date.

Verification required for security reasons

Statements will be submitted in narrative format via a Web-based input form. OSHA Data requires participants to provide some data elements for security purposes such as contact name and address, Dun and Bradstreet number of the inspection site, e-mail address, user name, and password.

The service is not endorsed or supported by OSHA. Carmel’s firm analyzes past OSHA inspection records to help employers and occupational health providers determine what to expect and how to best avoid OSHA penalties.

Rebuttal statements will be made available to the public with all compliance history reports as part of a subscription service, Carmel says. For more information, including the cost of the service, contact Carmel by e-mail at mcarmel@osha