OSHA will expand the use of corporate-wide settlement agreements (CSAs) from egregious or per-instance citation cases to a broader range of enforcement cases, under a directive issued June 23. The agency may now initiate negotiation of CSAs, particularly when an employer appears to have a significant pattern of non-compliance with the OSH Act across multiple locations, according to the new directive (CPL 01-00-152 "Guidelines for Administering Corporate-Wide Settlement Agreements", attached below).
The instruction states that CSAs can be suitable under various circumstances, including but not limited to the following three types of cases:
- High profile enforcement cases, such as significant penalty, fatality, Process Safety Management (PSM), or Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) cases, as well as cases where a complex, serious hazard not covered by an OSHA standard exists;
- Extensive recordkeeping deficiency cases;
- Cases where high gravity serious citations were issued, with a corporate inspection history revealing at least one of the following:
Systematic pattern of violations tied to an OSHA standard
· Significant history of OSHA violations
· Fatality or incident trends stemming from similar conditions
The new policy will affect both national and regional CSAs. Unchanged from the previous directive is federal OSHA’s practice of not enforcing the agreements in states with their own OSHA programs.
Under the old directive, corporate-wide settlements were used primarily with companies that had violations at several locations and that faced high penalties. The new guidelines give OSHA more flexibility to initiate settlement agreements, including situations that have not led to citations but which OSHA believes may present systemic and serious safety and health hazards. The instruction states the new approach will allow OSHA to deploy its enforcement resources more efficiently.
Another significant change in the new guidelines is that each agreement must now include a termination date and/or a sunset clause that will not extend beyond two years from the beginning of the agreement. The previous directive had no time limit.