In what could be a landmark moment in federal environmental and workplace health and safety enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice and Labor today announced that the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices will work with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations.

Prosecutors have now been encouraged to consider utilizing Title 18 and environmental offenses, which often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, to enhance penalties and increase deterrence.  Statutes included in this plan are the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) and the Mine Safety and Health Act (Mine Act).

“Every worker has the right to come home safely.  While most employers try to do the right thing, we know that strong sanctions are the best tool to ensure that low road employers comply with the law and protect workers lives,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.  “More frequent and effective prosecution of these crimes will send a strong message to those employers who fail to provide a safe workplace for their employees.  We look forward to working with the Environment and Natural Resources Division to enforce these life-saving rules when employers violate workplace safety, workers’ health and environmental regulations.”

DOJ has established a website dedicated to its enforcement initiative.