The owner of a Philadelphia roofing company faces up to 25 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines in connection with the death of his employee who died after falling 45 feet.
A federal grand jury in Philadelphia handed up six counts in an indictment against James McCullagh, the owner of James J. McCullagh Roofing Inc.
On June 21, 2013, a McCullagh crew was working on the roof of the Old Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. An employee, identified in local media reports as Mark Smith of Philadelphia, fell 45 feet from a scaffold and died.
Now the owner faces six criminal counts: four for making false statements, one for obstruction of justice and one for willful violation of an OSHA regulation.
The grand jury charges that McCullagh:
- lied to an OSHA inspector, claiming he had provided his employees working on the church roof with fall protection and that the last time he had checked, his employees were wearing safety harnesses tied off to an anchor point
- directed two of his employees to tell similar lies, and
- knowingly and willfully violated a regulation which caused the death of an employee who fell 45 feet.
McCullagh’s attorney says his client has “no comment at this time.”
If convicted, McCullagh could spend up to 25 years in prison, serve three years of supervised release, and pay $1.5 million in fines and a $510 assessment.
OSHA issued 10 violations, three willful, to McCullagh Roofing for a total of $71,600 in fines. The violations include failure to provide:
- fall protection for employees working from a roof bracket scaffold
- training for employees involved in erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining or inspecting scaffolds
- the correct type of rope lifeline to employees working 45 feet above the next lower level, and
- the proper anchorage points for personal fall arrest systems.
OSHA’s website says the inspection that resulted from Smith’s death “has not been indicated as closed” and that the violations are being contested.
It’s rare for federal prosecutors to seek criminal charges against companies for OSHA violations. However, this case points to one factor that makes it more likely prosecutors will pursue criminal charges: lying to OSHA or other federal officials.