If an inspector finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards during an inspection, OSHA must issue a Citation and Notification of Penalty within 6 months of the violation’s occurrence. The citation will:

  • Describe OSHA requirements allegedly violated;
  • List any proposed penalties; and 
  • Give a deadline for correcting the alleged hazards.

OSHA encourages employers to call their local OSHA office upon receipt of the citation to discuss any concerns.

Employer Options

Employers that have been cited may choose to take any of the following courses of action:

  1. Not Contest the Citation. If the employer agrees with the citation, it must correct the condition(s) by the date set in the citation (the
    “abatement date”) and pay any proposed penalty. Employers must promptly notify the OSHA area director by letter, signed by management, that the employer has taken the appropriate corrective action within the time set forth in the citation (referred to as Abatement Certification), and pay any penalties itemized. The level of detail of the abatement certification depends on the nature of the violation.
  2. Contest the Citation. If the employer does not agree with the citation, it has 15 working days from the date it receives the citation to contest in writing the citation, the proposed penalty, and/or the abatement date. This is referred to as a “Notice of Intent to Contest.”
  3. Request an Informal Conference. Before deciding to contest, an employer may request an informal conference with its OSHA area director within the 15-working-day period to discuss any issues (e.g., obtaining clarification regarding the violations cited or the specific standards that apply, discussing ways to correct violations, or negotiating/entering into an informal settlement agreement).
    An informal conference will neither extend the 15-working-day period nor take the place of the filing of a written contest.
    Whenever an employer or employee requests an informal conference, all the parties are afforded the opportunity to participate fully.
  4. Submit a Petition for Modification of Abatement. If the 15-working-day contest period has expired, and an employer is unable to meet an abatement date because of uncontrollable events or other circumstances, a written Petition for Modification of Abatement must be submitted as soon as possible, but no later than one working day after the abatement date. To show clearly that the employer has made a good faith effort to comply, the petition must include certain required information (such as steps taken to achieve compliance). The petition may be granted or opposed if it is opposed, it automatically becomes a contested case. If it is granted, OSHA may conduct a monitoring inspection to ensure that conditions are as they have been described in the petition and that adequate progress has been made toward abatement.
    Note: If an employer does not contest the citation within the 15-working-day period, the citation will become a final order, after which the citation may not be amended or changed. OSHA area directors may only advise employers on abatement methods or extend the time employers need to abate the violation(s) pursuant to a proper petition for modification of abatement.

Posting Requirements

Employers are required to immediately post any Citation and Notification of Penalty (or a copy) at or near the place where each violation occurred, regardless of whether the employer contests the citation.

The citation must remain posted in a place where employees can see it for 3 working days or until the violation is corrected, whichever is longer. (Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays are not counted as working days.) Failure to follow posting requirements is a violation and can result in a penalty.

In addition, abatement certification documents must be posted at or near the place where the violation occurred to inform employees of the abatement action(s) the employer has taken. Special rules may apply where such posting would be difficult or impractical.