Monday, August 24, 2015

OSHA Investigation Leads to Years in Prison

Construction company owner and project manager punished after worker's death

Workplace safety is crucial in construction
Raul Zapata paid the price for a company's disregard of OSHA regulations.

Workplace safety can be a matter of life or death, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) takes its role seriously. A recent court ruling is the culmination of a 3 ½ year long example of everything that can go wrong when construction companies don’t follow OSHA regulations, and the severe consequences of ignoring their responsibilities or forgoing OSHA training.

In January 2012, a crew from U.S. Sino Investment was working at a residential construction site in Milpitas, California when a building inspector issued a stop-work notice to project manager Dan Luo. The excavation lacked shoring and the company did not have anyone competent in excavation onsite, violating OSHA regulations and making the site unsafe for workers. Luo and the company ignored the notice and kept working, rejecting their responsibilities as employers. Three days later a 12-foot high wall collapsed and instantly killed Raul Zapata, a worker on the site. In a striking example of the company’s disregard for worker safety, neither Zapata nor anyone on site was wearing head protection while they worked.

Past OSHA investigations had led to high-profile fines, but this case had even higher stakes. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) led a criminal investigation into the company and their violations of workplace safety measures. After over three years, a Superior Court judge sentenced Luo and company owner Richard Liu to two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

Christine Baker, director of the Department of Relations (which includes Cal/OSHA), emphasized the division’s dedication to protecting workers. She highlighted employer responsibility, saying “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.”

Workplace safety is a matter of life or death! Protect your workers on the job and keep your company away from lawsuits; check out our OSHA Safety courses to make sure you’re in compliance with OSHA regulations.