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OSHA Violations & The Employer

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My friend and colleague Al Torrence calls my attention to a recent Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision which held that an employer’s knowledge of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation could not be imputed to the employer when the supervisor himself is the employee engaged in the violation. 

In order to establish that an employer has violated the Act, the government must establish that a safety regulation applied; the regulation was violated; an employee was exposed to the created hazard; and the employer “knowingly disregarded” the Act’s requirement.  

The fourth element, that the employer knowingly disregarded the Act is often established through a supervisor’s knowledge of the violation. This is because the supervisor acts as the employer’s agent and the agent’s knowledge is imputed to the employer.

But the Court reasoned that it was unfair to impute knowledge to the employer when the supervisor himself engages in an OSHA violation. When a supervisor act in a manner inconsistent with the requirements and expectation of his employer by violating known safety rules, such actions should not be imputed to the employer unless there is evidence that the employer actually knew of the supervisor’s violations or the violations were reasonably foreseeable because of a history of lax safety standards.

I am available for consultation regarding OSHA laws.
Randall J. Love