The Court of Appeals Holds That Indifference to Safety Satisfies the Standard for a Willful Violation Under WISHA

Construction worker in funny pose

Although the Court of Appeals’ decision is unpublished, it suggests that a lack of knowledge and/or reckless disregard of a known risk may support the willfulness designation.

May 16, 2022
Cameron Sheldon - Ahlers Cressman & Sleight PLLC

In March 2022, the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One, issued Marpac Constr., LLC v. Dep’t of Lab. & Indus., No. 82200-4-I, 2022 WL 896850, at *1 (Wash. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2022) holding Marpac Construction, LLC (“Marpac”) liable for three willful Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act of 1973 (WISHA) violations pertaining to safe crane operation near energized power lines.

Marpac was the general contractor on an apartment complex construction project in West Seattle. The worksite had high voltage power lines running throughout the site. Seattle City Light had flagged some with a 10-foot offset, but none of the other power lines were flagged. Marpac’s superintendent assumed that the lines were between 26 kilovolts (kV) and 50 kV based on their connection to the lines flagged by Seattle City Light. The superintendent never called Seattle City Light to check the voltage of the lines and the lines remained above ground.

In September 2016, a subcontractor began work on the project’s structural foundation. The subcontractor expressed concerns about working around the power lines, but Marpac promised it was working on mitigation of the power line hazard and directed the subcontractor continue working. At one point, the subcontractor’s employees had to move the crane and concrete forms away from the power lines to allow a cement truck to park in its place. The crane’s line contacted the power lines, causing serious injuries to two of the subcontractor’s employees.

Ms. Sheldon may be contacted at cameron.sheldon@acslawyers.com



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