Safety and OSHA News

Effort underway to prosecute more OSHA crimes

While it’s still rare, we’ve been hearing for a while now that OSHA is stepping up its efforts to refer some fatality cases for criminal prosecution. Now one law enforcement agency is joining the effort. 

In California, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has launched a new program to send investigators and prosecutors to the scenes of workplace deaths and environmental threats.

The OSHA and Environmental Crimes Rollout Program will send staffers from the DA’s office to the sites of these incidents immediately after they are reported. The purpose: to help preserve evidence and document eyewitness accounts. The investigators and prosecutors will work with staff from Cal/OSHA.

Of course the evidence and witness accounts could be important if the DA’s office decides to pursue criminal charges against a company or its management.

“Businesses that do not ensure worker and community safety will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Lacey said.

The DA’s office has asked first responders, such as police and fire departments, to let it know immediately when responders come upon workplace deaths or victims who have suffered life-threatening injuries potentially caused by violations of workplace safety regulations.

The members of this special unit, consisting of more than a dozen people, will also be sent to environmental incidents that threaten serious harm to the environment, wildlife or public safety.

Lacy has already signed agreements with dozens of local public safety agencies as part of this effort.

A pilot of the program has been running for the past few months. It’s already begun investigating four cases. No word on what those cases are because the cases are still pending.

Reports have said federal OSHA now refers cases for criminal prosecution when there is a fatality, a willful violation, and employers have either falsified documents or lied to OSHA in connection to violations related to an employee fatality. To qualify as a willful violation, a citation must be of an OSHA standard, not the General Duty Clause.

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