MARKEY, Chief Judge, United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals:
The Secretary of Labor petitions for review of that portion of a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission [Commission] which vacated certain alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 [Act], 29 U.S.C. § 651 et seq. We find the Commission's order supported by substantial evidence on the record, considered as a whole, and affirm.
Respondent Hendrix's Alsea Lumber Company [Alsea] maintains a small sawmill and logging yard, employing some 30 employees in the production and sale of lumber. The genesis of this action was a safety and health inspection of Alsea conducted by a compliance officer [inspector] of the U. S. Department of Labor.
The inspector, approaching the mill at approximately 35 miles per hour in his pick-up, observed Alsea's log pondman at a waterside work station about 500 feet from the roadway. The pondman did not at that time appear to the inspector to be wearing a buoyant life jacket. The inspector proceeded to the mill, presented his credentials, and conducted an inspection tour as provided for in 29 U.S.C. § 657. When the inspection tour reached the waterside station, the pondman was wearing a life jacket.
After the inspection tour, Alsea was cited for three serious and seventeen non-serious violations of the Act, of which the following are pertinent here:
The record establishes that the appealed violations resulted from individual employee choices of conduct — equipment operation and failure to wear protective equipment — which were contrary to the employer's instructions. Serious Violation No. 2 rests on an employee's operation of the buck saw as it is raised and lowered, whereas the employer's instructions restricted saw operation to just prior to, during and just after contact with the log, at which time the work station of the operator is several feet to the rear and to the side of the saw. Serious Violation
There is no evidence in the record tending to show that the employer had any knowledge respecting these instances of employee disobedience of its established instructions. No effort was made to establish that the instructions were a mere sham or that the employer had any on-going practice of permitting its instructions to be disregarded by its employees with impunity. The Secretary alleged employer knowledge and Alsea denied it. As the case reaches us, the absence of employer knowledge must be considered one of the established facts.
The alleged violations were all vacated for lack of evidence that the employer knew or had reason to know of their existence. The Commission's position was that the burden of proof on all elements of a violation lay upon the Secretary and that employer knowledge is a necessary element of both serious and non-serious violations.
"Serious Violation No. 3" was vacated on the additional ground of its having been observed prior to presentation of the inspector's credentials.
Scope of Review
The Act authorizes the Secretary of Labor to set safety standards, to conduct inspections, and to issue citations and proposed penalties. It establishes the Commission as an independent agency to carry out adjudicatory functions and authorizes the Commission, inter-alia, to vacate citations and proposed penalties. The findings and conclusions of the Commission are subject to our review under the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706 and 29 U.S.C. § 660(a). Because there is no factual issue before us, the Commission's order must be affirmed if it be found to have been in accordance with law.
The Secretary challenges the order on legal grounds, urging that the Commission erred in (1) assigning to him the burden of proof with respect to employer knowledge; (2) requiring employer knowledge as an element of the non-serious violation; and (3) vacating one of the serious violations as unauthorized because it was observed prior to presentation of the inspector's credentials.
Finding no error in the Commission's order vacating all of the violations for lack of proof by the Secretary of employer knowledge, we do not reach the issue of whether observation of a violation prior to presentation of credentials is a proper basis for a citation.
Although the Secretary's brief quotes and is for the most part couched in language relating to the general duty clause of the statute, 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1), the complaint and citations themselves charge failure to comply with specific safety and health standards, i. e., violations of the special duty clause, 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(2).
Burden of Proof
The Act defines a serious violation in 29 U.S.C. § 666(j) as:
That employer knowledge is an element of a serious violation is not disputed. The Secretary insists that he need not prove the existence of that element and that the respondent must prove its absence.
The Secretary argues that Congress' deletion of the words "the Secretary determines that" after the word "unless"
The Commission has consistently so interpreted the quoted provision of the Act and we have been presented no compelling reason for finding that interpretation to be contrary to law. The Commission's rule 73(a) provides:
In the present case the Secretary, fully aware of rule 73(a), affirmatively alleged knowledge on the part of the employer. We find no error in the Commission's requirement that the Secretary prove the allegations he elects to
The Secretary argues that he need only prove the serious "violation." The argument is based on a distinction without a difference. The statute states that unless the employer has knowledge, no serious violation may exist. Therefore, to prove the very existence of a serious violation, the Secretary must prove that the employer had knowledge of the condition alleged to be a violation.
We hold therefore that the Commission's procedural requirement, placing upon the Secretary the burden of proving all elements of a violation, one element of which is employer knowledge thereof, is a proper exercise of the Commission's authority under the Act.
What we have said respecting the burden of proof of employer knowledge is equally applicable to both serious and non-serious violations if employer knowledge be equally an element of both.
Employer Knowledge Is an Element of a Non-Serious Violation
The statute refers to the nature of violations only at 29 U.S.C. § 666, the title of which is "Civil and criminal penalties."
Section (d) provides a penalty for failure to correct "a violation." Section (e) sets forth a fine and imprisonment for an employer who "willfully violates" and "that violation caused death." Section (f) relates to fine and imprisonment of any person who gives advance notice of
Thus the statute describes no element of a non-serious violation and provides no guidelines for specifically determining a violation "not to be of a serious nature." We find unpersuasive, therefore, the argument of the Secretary to the effect that the presence of an employer knowledge requirement in Section (j) and its absence from Section (c) impels a finding of Congressional intent to delete employer knowledge as an element of a non-serious violation. We find no more warrant for deleting employer knowledge than we do for the deletion of any of the other elements set forth in Section (j) (probability of harm; conditions existing; practices adopted or in use; occurrence in place of employment), all of which are equally absent from Section (c).
Considering, as we must, the statute as a whole and 29 U.S.C. § 666 in its entirety, we are convinced that Congress intended the same meaning for the word "violation" wherever it appears. Section (c), containing the only reference to nonserious violations, must be read in conjunction with Section (b). Both relate to employers who have merely "received a citation."
We note also, the use of "wilfully" and "knowingly" in those sections of 29 U.S.C. § 666 which refer to persons who "violate." Wilfulness, with which knowledge is necessarily equated, does not appear where the prohibited act is impossible without knowledge of the actor (failure to correct; giving advance notice; failure to post), or in Sections (b) and (c) which are concerned only with assessment upon citation. Whether the assessment be mandatory or permissive is made to turn solely on the nature of the violation, not on the presence or absence of employer knowledge.
We find the Commission's requirement of proof by the Secretary of employer knowledge as an element of a non-serious violation to be both reasonable and in accord with the statute under which the Commission functions. The whole tone of the statute and its legislative history is directed toward increased safety of working conditions through the cooperative efforts of employers and employees. The legislative purpose, stated in 29 U.S.C. § 651(b), includes:
The Secretary's citations herein are directed to Alsea and include the statement, "On the basis of the inspection it is alleged that you violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 * * * (emphasis ours). It appears unquestionable that the employees involved herein violated the act.
The legislative history of the Act indicates an intent not to relieve the employer of the general responsibility of assuring compliance by his employees.
The Commission's insistence on some nexus between the employer and the alleged violation confirms the wisdom of the Congress in establishing the Commission.
To revive the citation for non-serious violation No. 5 herein would be to subject an employer to a standard of strict liability, under the special duty clause, for deliberate employee misconduct. We do not find that result to be within the intent of the Congress.
The final order of the Commission was in accordance with law and must be affirmed.
(a) Each employer —
(a) Any employer who willfully or repeatedly violates the requirements of section 654 of this title, any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter, may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each violation.
(b) Any employer who has received a citation for a serious violation of the requirements of section 654 of this title, of any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or of any regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter, shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each such violation.
(c) Any employer who has received a citation for a violation of the requirements of section 654 of this title, of any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or of regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter, and such violation is specifically determined not to be of a serious nature, may be assessed a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each such violation.
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