Preparing For Negotiation

Your informal conference with OSHA is scheduled for tomorrow. Again, $14,000 is a lot of money for your small electrical company. You have heard stories about the OSHA area director indicating she is a hardline negotiator, but also that she is very easy to work with if you stick to the facts and demonstrate your commitment to safety. You have also heard she does not take kindly to disrespect (and that your foreman may have been rude to OSHA’s compliance officer) and that the average respectful contractor gets a 40%–45% penalty reduction as a result of attending the informal settlement conference. You think $7,700 would be a lot better price to pay than $14,000. Ideally, you would like to see the first two citations withdrawn (open elevator shaft and grounding prong that was removed from an extension cord). That would decrease your penalty by almost two-thirds. Of course, the argument that your company leadership could not have known about the bad cord is weak because the foreman has not been filling out his extension cord checklist consistently (and did not on the day of the inspection or the two weeks preceding the inspection). Sometimes the OSHA area director is willing to reduce the penalty on citations, even if they are not withdrawn, especially if the employer can demonstrate good faith with respect to providing a safe workplace. Settling the case is in the area director’s interest because the employer (you in this case) could legally contest the citations. The case would then become a legal matter to be heard by an administrative law judge, and some judges have been known to vacate any citations that are not “ironclad,” so to speak. The hearing would also tie up the area director’s compliance officer and OSHA’s attorneys for what they would deem a trivial case. Contesting the citations is another option. But then, of course, you will end up having to pay a considerable amount of money to your attorneys. The judge’s decision combined with attorney fees could end up costing much more than $14,000, even if you end up with a favorable decision. But you do have that card to play, and the area director knows it. Based on your readings and the materials presented for your SLP in the first 3 modules, prepare a 2 page paper in which you discuss the importance of creating range and alternatives in preparing for such a negotiation.

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