OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT (OSHA)
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, also called the OSH Act, mandates federal safety regulations which the majority of private sector employers must comply with. The provisions delineated by the OSH Act are strictly enforced by OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and if an employee alleges unsafe working conditions by filing an OSHA complaint, the business which is allegedly in OSH Act violation may be assessed considerable civil penalties of up to $70,000 per violation. OSHA conducts tens of thousands of inspections each year, and if an inspector determines the existence of a hazardous condition, the ultimate result may be litigation in federal court.
If you are are a business owner who is concerned about your workplace safety policies, or if an employee has already brought a workplace safety complaint against your company, the experienced employment law lawyers of Bellatrix PC can help. Whether you’d like to identify vulnerable areas in your current practices through our business risk review service, or you are already facing a lawsuit and need aggressive legal representation, our OSHA attorneys are here to assist.
To arrange for a private legal consultation, call the law offices of Bellatrix PC right away at (800) 889-8376.
What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act?
The OSH Act created OSHA with the purpose of making sure that the safety and health concerns of all American workers were being met. In order to continuously accomplish this goal, the OSH Act focuses on two broad areas:
- Enforcing occupational and public safety laws.
- Providing information and assistance to employers, workers, and the public regarding workplace safety and health issues.
Employers must bear in mind that OSHA, which has jurisdiction over private sector employers excluding self-employed persons or sole proprietors and workers on family-owned farms, aggressively enforces compliance with federal safety regulations across a wide variety of industries. This is particularly true of industries which are known to be statistically prone to injuries and fatalities among workers, such as construction, logging, and manufacturing.
The OSH Act covers private sector employers and their employees in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Additionally, the State of California, under an agreement with OSHA, operates its own occupational safety and health program to bolster the federal regulations. The Department of Industrial Relations administers this program, which is named the California Occupational Safety and Health Program, or Cal/OSHA. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or DOSH, is the principal executor of the plan, which oversees enforcement and consultation.
Cal/OSHA Compliance and Work Site Inspections
Cal/OSHA applies to all public and private employers in the state, with the following six exceptions:
- Government employees
- Employees of the United States Postal Service
- Private sector employers located on Native American lands
- Maritime activities on the navigable waterways of the United States
- Private contractors working on land designated as exclusive federal jurisdiction
- Employers who require federal security clearances
The Cal/OSHA enforcement unit conducts “programmed” and “unprogrammed” inspections of work sites.
A programmed investigation is the result of a) being randomly selected in a specific industry, or as part of a national or local workplace safety and health emphasis program, or b) an inspection of another location operated by the same employer, but was not the reason the first visit was initiated.
An unprogrammed inspection is the result of an accident, complaint, or referral that an alleged incident occurred at a work site that may have violated the health and/or safety of workers.
During the inspection process, the Cal/OSHA inspector will hold an opening conference to explain the reason for and scope of the inspection. The inspector will then complete a walk-around to view the work site, conduct employee interviews, take photographs, and collect environmental samples to see if a violation has occurred. Once the investigation is completed, the Cal/OSHA inspector will hold a closing conference to discuss any alleged violations and requirements for abatement.
If a citation or notice is received, an appeal may be submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board in reference to the violation, proposed penalty, or abatement requirement. Any appeal must be made in writing within 15 working days of receipt of the citation. If an employer fails to notify the Appeals Board of their appeal within the 15 working day limit, and no notice is filed by an employee or employee representative within that time, the citation becomes a final order not subject to review by any court or other agency.
Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys
If your business has received a Cal/OSHA citation or notice, it is wise to seek legal advice from a California OSHA lawyer. Bellatrix PC is well versed in Cal/OSHA law and can step in at any stage of the violations, from the time the compliance officers first appear at the work site, upon receipt of citations, at the conference with the area director, during discovery and trial, and on appeals before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Our legal group can also advise you on how to prevent such incidents from occurring again, and/or how to handle them correctly, should they occur in the future.
To begin discussing your matter in a private case evaluation, call Bellatrix PC at (800) 889-8376. Our California law offices are located in San Diego and Riverside.
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For tax or affordability reasons, a business may choose to lease or finance equipment, rather than buying it outright. For example, some business owners enjoy the flexibility of a lease in that they can replace or update equipment more frequently, or they can evaluate it before investing in an outright purchase. Sometimes leasing equipment creates more immediate tax write-offs than purchasing and depreciating capital assets (talk to your accountant). And sometimes, it is just not possible from a cash flow standpoint to purchase equipment outright; leasing or financing allows your business to grow using leveraged debt.
Common examples of leased equipment include, for example: copy machines, computers and servers, farm equipment, heavy manufacturing machinery, vehicles, restaurant-grade kitchen appliances and furniture.
Just like with any other contracts related to your business, you need to have them reviewed by a lawyer. For instance, what happens if your building is flooded, and the property or equipment is damaged? What if an employee gets hurt while using the equipment? What if economic conditions change, and you need to terminate the lease or contract? Who is responsible for maintenance and upgrades? Do you have to buy insurance? Is there a personal guaranty? What happens if someone breaches — are you giving up your rights to dispute a breach in a collection scenario or can they repossess the equipment? Is the lease in your corporation’s name?
Of course, you want to negotiate the best possible terms for your business financially. You want to avoid personal liability as a business owner. You want the best tax scenario. You may want flexibility to upgrade, terminate or maintain the equipment. Having a well-constructed property or equipment lease or contract can also indemnify your business for liability to third parties if the equipment is defective. You may want an option to purchase at the end of the lease.
Put our lease and contract attorneys to work for your business
The lease and contract attorneys at Bellatrix PC are able to draft or review property or equipment leases and contracts and educate you on various possibilities. Bellatrix PC lawyers are effective negotiators, precise draftsmen, and creative problem solvers. We will advise you as to the ideal legal terms for your lease or contract in order to protect your business’ best interest. Contact us to schedule a review of your equipment finance or lease deals.
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