What causes a safety problem to rise to a ‘willful’ violation?

by on September 25, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

What is a willful OSHA violation? The answer’s important because willful citations can cost 10 times as much as lesser OSHA offenses.

Here’s a quick formula: “company representative” plus “awareness” plus “did it anyway” equals “willful”:

  1. “Company representative.” This is anyone who has authority over workers. As a frontline supervisor, whatever you know, the company knows. So if you know a worker is changing a circuit breaker and hasn’t locked out, the company legally knows and is legally responsible.
  2. “Awareness.” This means a company rep knew OSHA requirements and/or hazardous conditions. A company rep doesn’t need to know both – just one or the other. So if there’s a safety committee or insurance report showing a hazardous condition or OSHA violation, you’re legally obligated to act.
  3. “Did it anyway.” This means workers were assigned to work despite a compliance violation or hazardous condition. A company rep doesn’t need an “evil intent,” as OSHA says. “Plain indifference” to putting workers in harm’s way is enough. Bottom line: If you know, you have to report and act to abate the problem.

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