Understanding S.C. 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.

In order to insure a safe and healthy place of employment, free of hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious injury to employees, the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Act (S.C. OSHA) was enacted in 1971. 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 Rules are adopted, amended or repealed through a formal process that gives the public advance notice and an opportunity to comment.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. A copy of the general industry and construction standards is available by contacting the U.S. Government Printing Office Bookstore, P.O. Box 56445, Atlanta, GA 30343, (404) 347-1900, or the Commerce Clearinghouse, 1-800-835-5224.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN OSHA INSPECTION?

A safety or health officer, 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. (Inspectors carry photo ID's issued by LLR).

The officer first explains the purpose of the visit. An inspection may be prompted by an employee complaint, workplace fatality/accident or by OSHA records which show your industry as having had a high incidence of workplace injuries/illnesses the previous year. Then the inspector will review documents such as the OSHA injury/illness log (form 200), hazard communication program, etc.

Next comes an actual walk-through of the worksite by the inspector. Conditions that could endanger the health or safety of employees will be pointed out and described as they relate to violations of occupational safety or health standards.

VIOLATIONS

If during the inspection violations are found, the safety or health officer will classify these violations, and a written report will be developed. S.C. OSHA citations are classified according to 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.

PENALTIES

S.C. 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 S.C. OSHA office in Columbia for review. This review ensures uniformity in the application of S.C. OSHA standards.

A CITATION

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 S.C. OSHA. Or he/she may seek a formal hearing by filing a written protest with LLR. Request for an informal conference or formal hearing must be made within 20 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 citation(s), abatement dates and/or proposed penalty (ies). If the employer fails to contest within a twenty (20) calendar day period, the citations(s), abatement date(s), and proposed penalty assessment shall be deemed a final order not subject to final review. The procedure to request a contested case hearing is as set forth in the Rules of Procedure for the South Carolina Administrative Law Court (ALC). These procedures may be obtained from the ALC website at www.scalc.NET/rules.aspx, or you may contact the Clerk, South Carolina Administrative Law Court, Edgar A. Brown Building,1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 224, Columbia, SC 29201. Unless the penalty is contested, it must be paid, even though all violations have been corrected.

If the employer disagrees with the citation(s), the abatement date(s), and /or penalty (ties), the employer may take the following courses of action:

  1. Informal Conference – The employer may elect to have an informal discussion with the Informal Conference Hearing Officer, which may be arranged by contacting the South Carolina OSHA office orally or in writing within five (5) days after the date the Citation and Notification of Penalty is received. The Informal 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 ALC and must submit a request for contested case hearing before the ALC within twenty (20) calendar days from the date that the Citation and Notification of Penalty is received.

If the employer contests the citation(s), the abatement date(s), and /or penalty (ties), the employer must post a notice to this effect near the citation contested. South Carolina law contains penalties for the violation of 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 S.C. OSHA safety and health standards, LLR's Division of Labor and the Office of OSHA Voluntary Programs provide free and confidential on-site consultation. This Office 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 their workplaces. The walk-through is identical to a S.C. OSHA enforcement inspection, except no citations or penalties will be issued. A written report of hazards with recommendations for corrections is prepared. Before a consultation visit is scheduled, the employer must agree to correct all hazards. Verification of the corrections is required. Consultation services are initiated at the employer's request, which is required in writing, on company letterhead, and signed by a management official. Requests are prioritized according to the nature of the workplace and existing backlogs. For more information on consultation services, contact the Division of Labor, Office of OSHA Voluntary Programs, South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, 110 Centerview Drive, P.O. Box 11329, Columbia, S.C., 29211-1329, (803) 896-7744 or Fax (803) 896-7750.

FREE REGIONAL AND ON-SITE TRAINING

LLR's Division of Labor, Office of OSHA Voluntary Programs also provides free customized training designed to help employers eliminate accidents and injuries before they happen. Safety and health 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 space, personal protective equipment, the OSHA inspection process, respirators, forklifts, and many others. Regional Training is OVP's emphasized training approach. OVP staff conduct multi-training programs at least monthly at educational or community centers around the state. This approach has allowed OVP instructors to reach a greater number of employers. For more information regarding regional or on-site training services, contact the Division of Labor, Office of OSHA Voluntary Programs, South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, 110 Centerview Drive, P.O. Box 11329, Columbia, S.C., 29211-1329, (803) 896-6788 or Fax (803) 896-7750.

OSHA POSTERS, FORMS

All employers are required to post the S.C. OSHA poster at the jobsite. Employers with 11 or more employees must record on-the-job injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 form. Posters and forms are available free by contacting LLR's OSHA Office, P.O. Box 11329, Columbia, S.C., 29211-1329, (803) 896-7686. Or email jenkinsp@llr.sc.gov. All posters are available for download at http://www.llr.state.sc.us/aboutus/index.asp?file=posters.htm. Please note that these posters are current and that there have not been any changes in law affecting the S.C. posters since 2008.

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.

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