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Circuit Court Decision Clarifies OSHA Inspection Authority

Friday, October 19, 2018

(North American Meat Institute)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently ruled recorded injuries and illnesses do not justify the issuance of an administrative warrant for evidence of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations. The case, USA v. Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., involved a poultry processing plant, where an employee was injured while repairing an electrical panel requiring the employee to be hospitalized. OSHA sought a warrant to expand the scope of the inspection based on a National Emphasis Program the agency had focused on poultry processing facilities and Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc.’s recordkeeping forms.

The Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling denying OSHA’s request, concluding the mere recording of work-related injuries or illnesses does not mean that such injuries or illnesses resulted from an employer’s violation of an OSHA standard, rule or regulation. The Eleventh Circuit also found, “the existence of a ‘hazard’ does not necessarily establish the existence of a ‘violation,’ and it is a ‘violation’ which must be established by reasonable suspicion in the application for the warrant.” A hazard, however, does not itself establish a violation, according to the court’s decision. This decision will significantly affect OSHA’s ability to obtain a warrant for purposes of an inspection or for purposes of expanding an inspection.

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