The owner of a painting business has escaped a prison sentence but will be on probation for a year in connection with the work-related death of one of his employees.
Thomas Caruso, 78, owner of Modern Painting and Decorating in Springdale, PA, pleaded guilty to a charge of willful violation of an OSHA regulation causing the death of an employee.
Caruso could have been sentenced to up to six months in prison and a $250,000 fine.
His company had been hired in 2008 to paint the Habitat for Humanity building in New Kensington, PA. He couldn’t finish the work in 2008, but Habitat brought him back to complete the job in 2010.
At that time, Caruso hired Paul Thompson, 48, to complete the work. Thompson had worked for Caruso years ago but had just finished a 20-year prison sentence and was looking for work.
Caruso knew there were power lines within two feet of the building where Thompson would be working. Caruso told Thompson to be careful around the lines but gave him no other safety training and took no steps to protect him from the energized lines.
On April 7, 2010, Thompson was on the building’s flat roof and reached over a parapet wall with a roller that was attached to a fiberglass extension poll. Apparently, the poll touched the power lines, and Thompson was electrocuted.
OSHA issued a willful violation to Modern Painting for allowing an employee to work near energized power lines and two serious violations regarding fall hazards. The fines totaled $57,400 which the company paid.
Criminal prosecutions for OSHA violations are rare. From 2007 through 2010, the Department of Justice acted on just 49 criminal referrals from OSHA.