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Company owner faces criminal charges after fatal work accident

Construction company owners and contractors in California will likely be aware that fall accidents are the cause of the majority of fatalities in the construction industry. For this reason, it is unacceptable for employers to expect employees to work at heights without fall protection. The U.S. Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute an employer whose willful disregard of safety violations led to a fatal work accident.

The DOJ recently filed charges against the owner of a roofing company in another state that may lead to a prison sentence of 25 years, and fines of $1.5 million -- if he is convicted. This follows an OSHA investigation concerning a worker who fell to his death from a 45-foot high scaffold. To make matters worse, the company falsely declared that the worker had fall protection, and even instructed other workers to lie by asserting that they were provided with fall protection on that day.

OSHA declared that the death of this worker was entirely avoidable, and the criminal charges against the company owner may serve to underscore the importance of compliance with prescribed safety regulations. Compliance is a legal responsibility of any employer, and providing false information and/or coercing employees to do the same will bring about severe prosecution. In addition to the DOJ indictment, this company owner also received OSHA citations for willful violations.

Although the surviving family members of the man who tragically lost his life in this work accident may finally see justice done, it will not relieve the financial difficulties they may be facing after the death of their loved one. Fortunately, some level of monetary relief may be obtained by filing a claim for death benefits through the workers' compensation insurance fund. In all states, including California, these benefits typically cover end-of-life expenses, along with financial packages that are based on the prior earnings level of the deceased worker.

Source: usglassmag.com, "Roofing Contractor's Indictment Shows Importance of Fall Safety", Trey Barrineau, June 23, 2015

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