The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorizes violations into six categories but a willful violation is considered the most serious of them all. Construction companies must understand that although their workplace is virtually accident-free, a willful violation can still be issued. This article will explain what a willful violation is and how employers can be proactive in avoiding an OSHA willful citation.
What is a Willful Violation?
A willful violation occurs when an employer knowingly or voluntarily fails to comply with the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act). If you are an employee that intentionally or deliberately acted with plain indifference to employee safety, you could find yourself facing severe OSHA penalties. Penalties include:
- A civil penalty up to $126,749 for each alleged violation
- Placement in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) for multiple willful violations
- A public press release exposing the employer and violation
A Willful Act is About Intent
A willful act is about an employer’s negligence and an awareness that employees are violating safety standards. This can be sufficient cause for a willful citation. Keep in mind that ignorance is not bliss. An employer’s ignorance is not a justifiable defense for avoiding a citation.
An Employer’s Line of Defense
To lessen the likelihood of a willful violation and the issue of a citation, employers should implement the following types of policies:
- Create a safety committee
- Hire a professional safety director
- Establish safety rules
- Draft a written safety program
- Communicate safety rules and programs to employees
- Hands-on employee training and continuous monitoring
- Formal safety rule testing
- Routine jobsite inspections and equipment checks
- Recurring workplace safety talks
- Company-wide safety incentive program
- Disciplinary plans and enforcement for safety violations
- Thorough documentation and record keeping
Establishing and maintaining the above policies makes for a well-rounded safety program. If you need assistance with OSHA compliance, do not hesitate to speak with an OSHA defense lawyer at Cotney Construction Law.
Employers, Your Effort Matters
Willful citation are on the rise and OSHA is less willing to negotiate or reclassify willful citations; however, being proactive can make all the difference. Establishing a safety program shows that employers are making the effort to prevent the abuse of safety in the workplace and their willingness to comply with the Act. As experienced OSHA defense lawyers, we know that making these efforts helps to reduce fines and charges of willful disregard.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.