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Willful Violations Discussed

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Our last blog, OSHA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Cited Workplace Safety Standards for 2021, covered what OSHA calls the top ten serious violations for the fiscal year 2021. This list is defined by OSHA as “one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”

There is another OSHA top ten list we don’t hear as much about, but is actually considered the most serious of violations – the Top 10 “Willful” Violations. A willful violation occurs when an employer intentionally disregards OSHA’s rules and regulations or has an indifference to employee health and safety. A willful violation is punishable by a minimum of a $5000 fine and a maximum of a $70,000 fine per violation. If there is an employee death because of a willful violation, it becomes a criminal offense and can be punishable by fines of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

There are three categories for willful violations:
Intentional Disregard Violations – employer was aware of the standards and regulations set by OSHA and had knowledge of the hazard but chose not to address it
Plain Indifference Violations – lack of concern for employee health and safety, which could be management knew of regulations, but failed to inform lower level supervisors or did not take preventative measures or place any importance to protect employees
Criminal Willful Violations – violations that were the result of a death that is caused by a hazardous situation

Many violations on the list are the same as the serious violations, including Fall Protection being number one as well.

Top 10 “Willful” Violations, fiscal year 2021:
1. Fall Protection – General Requirements: 155 violations
2. Machine Guarding: 27 violations
3. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection: 23 violations
4. Lockout/Tagout: 22 violations
5. Requirements for Protective Systems: 15 violations
6. OSH Act of 1970 Section: 13 violations
7. Scaffolding: 12 violations
Permit Required Confined Space: 12 violations
Grain Handling Facilities: 12 violations
10. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Head Protection: 8 violations

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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