Unit 7 Legal Aspects of Safety
Unit 7 Legal Aspects of Safety
One month prior to the OSHA inspection, an accident occurred at the facility whereby two employees of the factory suffered severe chemical burns on their trunks, hands, arms and forearms, with corneal ulceration due to splash of chemical into their eyes. Unfortunately, the employees succumbed to these burns. This accident occurred in the washing area where parts are washed. The lack of a station with emergency eyewash facilities aggravated the situation and worsened the outcome of the accident. What the employees thought was water turned out to be concentrated sulfuric acid.
There are citations that could be referred to the U.S Department of Justice for Criminal proceedings with regard to the incident. They include Citation 2 item 3a that cites failure of the employer to implement and or maintain at the workplace a written hazard communication program that describes how the criteria specified in 29CFR 1910.1200 (f), (g) and (h) will be met. No written hazard communication program was developed for employees who work on the site and are exposed to hazardous chemicals including, but not limited to lead, methyl ethyl ketone, acetone and sulfuric acid. Another citation that can be referred to the U.S Department of Justice for Criminal proceedings is Citation 2 item 3b. This cites the failure of the employer to provide employees with effective information and training as specified in 29 CFR 1910. 1200 (h) (2) and (3) on hazardous substances in the work area at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new hazard was introduced into their work area. No training was provided for employees who work on the site and are exposed to hazardous chemicals including but not limited to lead, methyl ethyl ketone, acetone and sulfuric acid.
There are conditions that would have to be met before the citations can be referred for criminal proceedings. The OSHA standard has to have been violated and that the violation was by the employer, the violation of the standard led to the death of one or more employees due to exposure to a hazard in the workplace. In addition to this, the violation must be willfully committed by the employer and therefore classified as ‘willful’ during OSHA inspection. The individuals working at the facility who would face criminal charges under the Act include the employer, which in this case includes the four managers who own the factory. The health and safety director may be a victim due to failure to ensure that there are precautions to prevent hazards in the working area.
Section 17(e) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act provides for penalty of imprisonment up to six months and substantial monetary fine if a willful violation by the employer leads to the death of an employee. The monetary fine is of not more than $10000. The penalty may be either of the two or both. The sentencing Reform Act of 1984 standardizes penalties and sentences for federal offences. The criminal penalty for willful violations of the OSHA Act causing loss of human life was amended to be punishable by fines up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations.
If I were facing criminal charges under the Act, my best defense would be that, the top management of the company passed a rule to ensure safety in the washing area. Moreover, that due to the installation of a new safety and health director in the company, there was a small gap in the washing area as the new director settled in. I would make a promise to ensure the cessation of activity in that working area and the abatement of the violation as soon as possible, with full compensation of the affected family.
I would involve the OSHRC in the criminal cases by seeking appeal for the case to be heard. The OSHRC will assign a judge to the case and enable me to present the case on behalf of the company and to achieve redemption from the case or the reduction of the fine in terms of imprisonment or monetary fine.
Schwartz , J. B., & Conn, E. J. (2012). OSHA Criminal Referrals on the Rise. Epstein Becker & Green P.C.