Understanding SC OSHA:

A Guide for South Carolina Small Employers

One of the most tragic events is the death or serious injury of an employee in the workplace. While this overwhelming tragedy is immeasurable in terms of human loss, it also leads to low employee morale, lost productivity, increased medical costs, higher workers' compensation premiums, potentially expensive retraining, and the loss of business investment. These factors alone can make the difference between profit and loss to South Carolina employers.

The South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Act (SC OSHA) was enacted in 1971 in order to ensure safe and healthy workplaces which are free of hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious injury to workers. Under the law, employers must comply with safety and health standards adopted by the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. To assure compliance with the rules, LLR safety and health inspectors conduct periodic inspections.

WHO GETS INSPECTED?

All private and public sector employers in South Carolina are covered by the law with the exception of maritime, railroad, mining, and federal operations.

WHAT ARE SAFETY/HEALTH STANDARDS?

Standards are rules which specify how a workplace safety and health law is to be carried out or obeyed. South Carolina has its own state OSHA program, but must still adopt standards which are identical to or "at least as effective as" Federal OSHA standards. Rules are adopted, amended or repealed through a formal process that gives the public advance notice and an opportunity to comment. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the Federal OSHA standard is adopted verbatim. A copy of the general industry and construction standards is available by contacting the US Government Printing Office Bookstore, PO Box 56445, Atlanta, GA 30343, (404) 347-1900, or Wolters Kluwer, 1-800-835-5224.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN OSHA INSPECTION?

A compliance safety or health officer (CSHO) arriving unannounced, will seek out the manager in charge of the workplace. If employees are organized, the union representative will be invited to join the inspection. (CSHO’s carry photo ID's issued by LLR).

The CSHO first explains the purpose of the visit during an opening conference. An inspection may have been prompted by an employee complaint, workplace fatality/accident, or by OSHA records which show the industry as having had a high incidence of workplace injuries/illnesses during the previous year. Then the CSHO will perform a walk-around inspection of the worksite and will ask to review documents such as the establishment’s OSHA injury/illness log (form 300), hazard communication program (if applicable), etc.

VIOLATIONS

If violations are found during the inspection, the CSHO will classify these violations, and a written report will be developed. SC OSHA citations are classified according to the seriousness of an injury that might occur if an accident were to happen due to the violation of a standard. These classifications are:

  • De Minimis - a violation of a standard does exist but does not pose any direct or immediate threat to workers
  • Other-than-serious - a hazardous condition exists and could cause an injury, but probably would not result in death or serious physical harm
  • Serious - a hazardous condition exists that has a substantial probability of causing serious physical harm or death to workers; if an accident were to occur and the employer knew or should have known (with the exercise of reasonable diligence) of the violative conditions
  • Willful - the employer committed an intentional and knowing violation or was aware that a hazardous condition existed, and made no reasonable effort to eliminate the condition.
  • Willful - the employer committed an intentional and knowing violation or was aware that a hazardous condition existed, and made no reasonable effort to eliminate the condition.

PENALTIES

SC OSHA citations can carry monetary penalties up to $70,000 per violation. Fines for other-than-serious and serious violations may be set up to $7,000 per violation; and willful, up to $70,000 per violation.

THE CLOSING CONFERENCE

At the completion of the inspection, a closing conference is held to discuss any findings, determine the amount of time necessary to correct any hazards found, and to review the rights and responsibilities both employers and employees have concerning the inspection results. After the conference, the safety or health officer's report is sent to the SC OSHA office in Columbia for review. This review ensures uniformity in the application of SC OSHA standards.

CITATIONS

After review, all violations are compiled into a written report called a citation which lists each violation, sets abatement dates, and proposes a penalty. A copy is sent by certified mail to the employer. A copy of the citation(s) must be posted upon receipt at or near the site of the violation.

AGREEING/DISAGREEING WITH FINDINGS

If a citation is issued as a result of an inspection, an employer can: accept the findings, correct the violation within the required time frame, and pay any monetary penalty; or disagree with any part of the findings, including the violation itself, the amount of time required to correct the violation, or proposed monetary penalties. To do so, an employer may first request an informal conference with SC OSHA. Or he/she may seek a formal hearing by filing a request for a contested case hearing with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court (ALC). Request for an informal conference or formal hearing must be made within 30 calendar days from the date of the receipt of the citation by the employer.

THE APPEAL PROCESS

Appeal Rights/Informal Conferences

Employers have the right to contest citations, violations, abatement periods, and or proposed penalty amounts. An employer must contest a citation, or any part thereof, within thirty (30) calendar days from the date of receipt of the citation by the employer. Failure to contest within this time frame will result in the citation being deemed a final order not subject to review. Unless a penalty is contested, it must be paid, even if all violations have already been abated.

The employer must take one of two courses of action in order to contest a citation (in whole or in part):

  1. Informal Conference – The employer may elect to have an informal discussion with OSHA’s Informal Conference Hearing Officer. An informal conference can be arranged by contacting the SC OSHA office by phone or in writing. Employers are urged to schedule an informal conference within five (5) days after the receipt of a citation. The Informal Conference Hearing Officer has the authority to resolve the citation without litigation or contest.
  1. Formal Hearing – The employer may elect to have a formal hearing before the South Carolina Administrative Law Court (ALC). The procedure to request a contested case hearing is as set forth in the ALC’s Rules of Procedure which may be obtained from the ALC website. You may also contact the ALC by phone at (803) 734-0550, or by mail at 1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 224, Edgar A. Brown Building, Columbia, SC 29201.

If an employer contests a citation, or portion thereof, he/she must post a notice to this effect near the citation being contested. South Carolina law contains penalties for violating posting requirements.

Alleged violations that are not contested shall be corrected within the abatement period specified in the citation. Failure to correct an alleged violation within the abatement period may result in an additional proposed assessment of penalties.

FREE CONSULTATION

To help small employers better understand and voluntarily comply with SC OSHA safety and health standards, OSHA’s Office of Outreach and Training provides free and confidential on-site consultations. The Office of Outreach and Training offers courtesy inspections, technical assistance, and assists employers in developing management systems to improve safety and health conditions in their workplaces. Hazards are identified during a walk-through inspection of the workplace. The walk-through is identical to a SC OSHA enforcement inspection, except no citations or penalties are issued. A written report of hazards with recommendations for corrections is prepared. Before a consultation visit is scheduled, the employer must agree to correct any hazards found as a result of the inspection. Verification that the hazards were corrected will be required. Consultation services are initiated at the employer's request, which is required in writing. Requests are prioritized according to the nature of the workplace and existing backlogs. For more information on consultation services, contact OSHA’s Office of Outreach and Education by e-mail , by phone at (803) 896-6788, by fax at (803) 896-7750, or by US mail at OSHA Office of Outreach and Education, PO Box 11329, Columbia, SC 29211-1329.

FREE REGIONAL AND ON-SITE TRAINING

OSHA’s Office of Outreach and Education (O&E) also provides free customized training designed to help employers eliminate accidents and injuries before they happen. Safety and health training programs are available on a wide range of topics, including bloodborne pathogens, violence in the workplace, lock-out/tag-out, fall protection, excavation, scaffolding, hazard communication, confined spaces, personal protective equipment, the OSHA inspection process, respirators, forklifts, and many others. Regional training is O&E’s emphasized training approach where O&E staff conduct multiple training programs at least monthly at educational or community centers around the state. These regional training are held at least once a month which allows O&E instructors to reach a greater number of employers throughout the state. For more information, contact OSHA’s Office of Outreach and Education by e-mail , by phone at (803) 896-6788, by fax at (803) 896-7750, or by US mail at PO Box 11329, Columbia, SC 29211-1329.

OSHA POSTERS & FORMS

SC OSHA requires all employers to display OSHA posters at their establishments. The posters must be displayed in an area accessible to all employees such as a break room or employee information board. For your convenience, the OSHA poster is combined with other required LLR workplace information as an all-in-one poster which can be downloaded and printed here. You may also contact Ronald Adams to request a free poster by e-mail, by phone at (803) 896-7686, or by US mail at SC OSHA, PO Box 11329, Columbia, SC 29211-1329.

Employers are also required to display federal workplace posters. Please visit the US Department of Labor’s website to download those posters, or contact the Columbia branch at (803) 765-5981 to request a copy. Finally, employers with 11 or more employees must document on-the-job injuries and illnesses on OSHA’s 300, 300A, and 301 forms. These recordkeeping forms are available for download on the Federal OSHA website. You may also contact Ronald Adams by e-mail, or at the phone number and address listed above to request free recordkeeping forms.

Also, employers are required to post federal posters. For those posters, contact the U.S. Department of Labor at (803) 765-5981, EXT 6. OSHA Recordkeeping Forms 300, 300A, 301 and Instructions are available for download at http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/RKforms.html.

LLR's COMMITMENT

It is LLR's goal to protect the safety, health, and well-being of the citizens of South Carolina by the appropriate regulation and education of employers and employees, and to promote a regulatory climate where businesses and individuals can create jobs and wealth, which will in turn benefit our citizens.