In a growing trend nationwide, owners of companies whose employees die in the workplace from workplace related accidents are increasingly looking at jail time, not just high OSHA or state OSHA penalties.
In a recent case in New York City, the owners of a company RSDY New York Builders, Inc. and Park Ave. Builders, Inc. were arraigned on a 14 count indictment including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other felonies due to the fatal collapse of a wall on a Brooklyn construction site. The charges come from the investigation of a September 2015 wall collapse at an excavation site that killed an 18 year old worker and severely injured two other co-workers. The facts indicate that the work was being done out of compliance with city permit restrictions as well as in violation of OSHA shoring and stabilizing requirements for excavations. There was also a record of workers raising safety concerns but being told they must continue to work anyhow. In this situation, three workers were crushed by falling masonry blocks and other debris during the collapse. It was also clear that the seven workers at this job site had little or no safety training under OSHA.
This is a growing problem, (although it has been around for more than 20 years) of state attorney generals or Justice Department attorneys jumping on employee fatality cases to either make an example or exact justice. I recently made a presentation to a national group of labor and employment attorneys about this very topic in Washington, D.C. and would be happy to forward a copy to any company that so desires.
Bottom line: employers must consider safety a priority not only for the care and wellbeing of their employees, but as to the reputation and market value of their company’s brand and product line. A safe workplace has a halo effect for any company and given the aggressive nature of prosecutors in the U.S. at the moment, owners of companies that do not pay attention to OSHA (or MIOSHA) standards can find themselves in a jail cell.