Abatement dates are assigned on the basis of the best information available at the time the citation is issued. When you are unable to meet an abatement date because of uncontrollable events or other circumstances, and the 15 working day contest period has expired, you may file a "Petition for Modification of Abatement" (PMA) with the OSHA area director.
The PMA must be in writing and must be submitted 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 PMA must include all of the following information:
Steps already taken in an effort to achieve compliance and dates they were taken;
Additional time needed to comply;
Why additional time is necessary;
Interim steps being taken to safeguard employees against the cited hazard(s) until the abatement;
A statement that the petition has been posted, the date of posting and, when appropriate, a statement that the petition has been furnished to an authorized representative of the affected employees. The petition must remain posted for 10 working days, during which employees may file an objection.
A PMA may be granted or opposed by the OSHA area director. If it is opposed, it automatically becomes a contested case before the Review Commission. Contact your OSHA office for more information on PMAs.
If the written Notice of Contest has been filed within the required 15 working days, the OSHA area director forwards the case to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). The Commission is an independent agency not associated with OSHA or the Department of Labor. The Commission assigns an administrative law judge (ALJ) to the case.
The judge may investigate and disallow the contest if it is found to be legally invalid, or a hearing may be scheduled at a public place near the employer's workplace. The employer and the employees have the right to participate in the hearing; OSHRC does not require that they be represented by attorneys.
Once the ALJ has ruled, any party to the case may request a further review by OSHRC. Any of the OSHRC commissioners also may, at his or her own motion, bring a case before the Commission for review. Commission rulings may be appealed to the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals.
States with their own occupational safety and health programs have a state system for review and appeal of citations, penalties, and abatement periods. The procedures are generally similar to federal OSHA's, but cases are heard by a state review board or equivalent authority.