Why doesn't MIOSHA issue warnings without a citation or penalty for first-time offenders?
When the United States Congress passed the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) in 1970, the OSH Act provided for first time monetary sanctions for violations of the OSH Act or standards promulgated under authority of the OSH Act. To this day the OSH Act does not allow warnings or waiver of a citation or penalty for first-time offenders. The citation/penalty process is not viewed as punitive, but as an incentive for employers to comply with Safety & Health (S & H) requirements without waiting to use up their first-time waiver if one were to exist. However, Federal OSHA does provide funding for consultative services administered by the States, so employers can request such services at no cost and no citation or associated penalty.
The Federal OSH Act includes language that allows States to create their own S & H compliance programs; such States are said to have a “State Plan Program.” The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSH Act), Act 154 of 1974, as Amended created the Michigan S & H, State Plan Program, administered by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). For MIOSHA to maintain status as a State Plan Program, we must maintain a program that is deemed to be “at least as effective as” programs run in States with Federal OSHA jurisdiction. This includes maintaining a compliance program that does not allow waiver of citation/penalty for first time offenders. However, MIOSHA maintains a consultation service program administered by the MIOSHA Consultation, Education and Training (CET) Division. As mentioned above, any employer can request the CET Division to help them comply with MIOSHA standards and address S & H issues in their workplace, free of charge, with no monetary penalties for non-compliance. When requesting consultative services, the employer must agree to correct any hazard that is deemed to be of a serious nature.
To arrange for assistance please contact the Consultation Education and Training Division on the MIOSHA website or at 517-322-1809. Safety and health standards for construction and general industry, and other information regarding employee safety and health can be viewed on the MIOSHA website.
*The answers provided are not meant to be a substitute for legal advice.