Criminal Charges Follow Fatal Workplace Accidents
Stiff OSHA fines are not the only thing facing employers following fatal workplace accidents. The owner of one company is going to prison while another owner faces murder charges.
The president and primary owner of a New Hampshire business was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison after being convicted on two counts of manslaughter. The case stems from an explosion in May 2010 that killed two employees at a plant of Black Mag, LLC, a gunpowder-substitute manufacturer. The owner also had to surrender his ATF explosives manufacturing license and agree never again to employ workers in any explosives-related business. OSHA issued $1.2 million in fines after the blast.
In the other case, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams has filed murder charges against a contractor over a June building collapse that killed six people and injured 13 others. A four-story wall the contractor was demolishing fell onto a Salvation Army Thrift Store. The contractor faces six counts of third-degree murder, six counts of manslaughter and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person.
District Attorney Williams alleged the contractor removed key structural parts of the building from the inside first, instead of taking the building apart from the outside, leaving the walls standing without support. “He therefore chose to maximize his profits by first deciding to remove the joists, which were valuable for his resale,” Williams said.
The contractor is the second person charged in the June incident. Prosecutors also have charged an excavator hired by the contractor with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment. OSHA has proposed $397,000 in penalties against the two companies involved, Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting.
Criminal prosecutions are not limited to businesses in construction and general industry. Charges have been brought and convictions obtained in connection with the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy that killed 29 West Virginia miners. The criminal investigation of that accident is ongoing.
Reminding your supervisors and managers about their personal civil and criminal liability may be a crucial way to relay the importance of workplace safety to your team.