Workplace injuries are very serious matters.. Serious workplace injuries can result in additional OSHA inspections and the possibility of fines. However, did you know that they could also bring criminal charges? That is what is happening right now for one Maine-based contractor who is being charged with workplace manslaughter. In this case, the workplace accident resulted in the fatality of an independent contractor who fell off a three-story roof. This case is an example of how failing to meet the minimum federal safety requirements can go beyond OSHA citations and fines to criminal liability and indictments.
The role of subcontractors and your responsibility for their welfare at work
In the recent case in Maine, the business owner alleges that he did not have direct authority to dictate the use of the safety equipment he provided because the individuals he hired to work on the job were independent contractors. This assertion is being challenged as part of the criminal indictment, with the state arguing that the owner did have accountability for the safety of his workforce and that the business owner “intentionally or knowingly violated a federal occupational safety or health requirement to have fall protection, and that [the independent contractor’s] death was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of that failure.” Statute 203 of the Maine Criminal Code on manslaughter reads as follows:
“A person is guilty of manslaughter if that person:
C. Has direct and personal management or control of any employment, place of employment or other employee, and intentionally or knowingly violates any occupational safety or health standard of this State or the Federal Government, and that violation in fact causes the death of an employee and that death is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the violation.”
This recent incident serves as a stark reminder of a business owner’s responsibilities for the welfare of his or her employees and potentially for others who work on his or her behalf.
Why a business owner should care about workplace safety
There are many statistics offered by OSHA and the National Safety Council about the direct and indirect costs of workplace injuries. However, there is one secondary impact that can have significant consequences for a business: the effect on its reputation. A business’s reputation is a reflection of its culture and its management team. If a business does not reinforce a culture of safety throughout its organization or does not take immediate action to prevent future incidents to help protect its workers, it can impact employee morale, increase turnover and affect one’s ability to hire quality candidates. This, in turn, can lead to more accidents.
If you are looking for ways to make safety a larger part of your organization, below are several additional resources that are available to you:
- OSHA Free On-Site Consulting Services
- Leverage incident investigation to prevent future accidents
- Tips for building a safety culture
In addition, Acadia Insurance policyholders can contact our virtual loss control team for help in building and implementing tailored loss prevention programs and tools. Contact Virtual Loss Control at [email protected]. We all know that workplace safety is important. As a business owner, safety is always your responsibility. This recent incident is an unfortunate example of the consequences that can follow.