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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
August 18, 1993
Mr. Garland E. Whitworth
Director of Safety and Education
Southern Illinois Builders Association
Post Office Box 739
Belleville, Illinois 62222-0739
Dear Mr. Whitworth:
Thank you for your letter of July 28, addressed to Acting Assistant Secretary David C. Zeigler, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) citation policy. You stated that you had been informed that OSHA Area Offices and compliance officers will cite employers who have trained their employees "willful," while citing employers who offer no training "serious" or less.
Your source for this information appears to have miscommunicated or misinterpreted OSHA's policy. Following legal precedent, OSHA applies a classification of "willful" where the employer is determined to have committed a violation with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and/or OSHA standards.
In cases where OSHA alleges that a violation is willful, we are required to establish that the employer had knowledge of the violative or hazardous condition. It is conceivable that, if an employer provides safety and health training to employees but chooses to disregard it or to allow employees to ignore it and a violation results, OSHA might look upon this as evidence of willfulness. We believe such circumstances would be rare, however.
As you probably know, 29 CFR 1926.21 sets forth general training requirements that construction employers must follow. In addition, many individual OSHA standards contain specific training requirements. Failure to provide such required training would constitute a violation.
OSHA regards training and education as essential to a good workplace safety and health program. We wish to encourage all efforts by your association and by employers to provide safety and health training to employees and supervisors.
We hope that this has been responsive to your concerns. If we can be of further assistance, please let us know.
Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs