OSHA’s current preference for willful violations is often at odds with the standard of proof required for a willful violation. A willful violation is committed either intentionally or with plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
This contrasts with a serious violation, which requires only that the employer “knew or should have known” of the violation. Willful violations carry higher civil penalties—up to $70,000 per violation compared with $7,000 for a serious violation—and can result in criminal prosecution of the employer and its individual managers if the willful violation caused an employee’s death.
They can also impact potential civil liabilities, insurance rates and business opportunities, particularly job bidding.
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