Recently, Cal/OSHA issued a News Release confirming that its criminal investigation into a cave-in death of a day laborer in late January 2012 has resulted in a 2-year prison sentence for both the employer and the project manager for involuntary manslaughter.  Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Relations (DIR) warns:  “California employers must provide workers with the necessary protection and training so they can do their jobs safely… When our investigations uncover negligent behavior by employers, we exercise our full jurisdiction to protect workers – including referrals to district attorneys for prosecution.” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum joined in, warning:  “When preventable deaths occur on the job, employers must be held accountable.”

In late January of 2012, Raul Zapata, a day laborer, was installing a concrete foundation for a retaining wall at a residential construction site on Calaveras Ridge Drive in Milpitas, California. The 12-foot high excavation wall collapsed, killing him.  Cal/OSHA reports that the  fatal accident occurred 3 days after a City of Milpitas building inspector had issued a stop-work notice to the owner of U.S. Sino Investment for failure to provide shoring on the excavation.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation determined that:  (A) neither the victim nor other employees were wearing any head protection; (B) the excavation wall had not been shored up, as required by law; and (C) the employer did not have a competent person for excavation on the jobsite to ensure that the wall was installed according to Cal/OSHA rules.  In addition, the employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance at the time of the incident.

In addition to the criminal sentences, Cal/OSHA’s investigation resulted in the issuance of 6 six citations with penalties totaling $168,175, including 5 citations for serious violations.