OPU - What to do about it

So the dreaded yellow placard, an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU), has been placed on one of your machines or your entire worksite. What should you do now?

For starters, don’t touch it! Once in place the OPU cannot be removed except by a Cal/OSHA representative. Removing it or going around an OPU is a criminal offense.

Next, prepare yourself for an exercise in frustration. When a Cal/OSHA inspector decides there is an “imminent” risk of death or serious physical harm to employees and issues n OPU, there is no effective appeal. It is not a citation, so an employer cannot file an appeal at the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board.

But don’t delay on what you can do: You have just 24 hours to act.

Cal/OSHA’s “Policy and Procedures Manual” allows a meeting with the local District Manager who approved the issuance of the OPU in the first place. This meeting must take place within the allotted time or the right to contest the validity of the OPU is forever lost. If that happens, the only remaining issue is how the employer intends to fix the problem.

Which brings us to the next most frustrating thing about the OPU process. To get the OPU lifted and return the company to work, the local Cal/OSHA office must be convinced that the employer’s fix will be adequate. This can lead to multiple protracted discussions between Cal/OSHA and the employer about engineering and process modifications. It is likely that the employer will know more about what will work and what won’t, but Cal/OSHA hold the cards.

For more information about OPUs, go to Cal/OSHA Policy and Procedure Manual, Section c-8 http://dir.ca.gov/DOSHPol/P&PC-8.htm or call us at (707) 431-7900.

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