A federal judge has sentenced the owner of a Philadelphia-based construction company to jail time for charges related to the fatal fall of one of his employees.
James McCullagh, 60, of Meadowbrook, PA, was sentenced to 10 months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $510 assessment.
On June 21, 2013, McCullagh’s employee, Mark Smith, 52, fell 45 feet from a roof bracket scaffold to his death. Neither Smith nor any of McCullagh’s other workers at the construction site had fall protection.
Federal prosecutors said McCullagh attempted to cover up not providing fall protection by telling investigators, on four occasions, that he had provided fall protection equipment, including harnesses, to his employees. McCullagh told an OSHA inspector that his employees had been wearing safety harnesses tied off to an anchor point when he saw them earlier in the day of the fatal fall.
Prosecutors say McCullagh also told employees to lie to OSHA and tell inspectors they had fall protection, including harnesses, on the day Smith died.
McCullagh pleaded guilty to six charges: one count of willfully violating an OSHA regulation causing death to an employee by failing to provide fall equipment; four counts of making false statements; and one count of obstruction of justice for telling workers to lie to OSHA.
Criminal prosecution in worker fatality cases is rare, but the likelihood of owners and managers facing charges increases when there is a suspicion they lied to OSHA or other federal authorities.
The maximum penalty in this case was 25 years in prison along with a hefty fine.
McCullagh said Smith wasn’t just his employee, he was also a friend.
Judge Quinones Alejandro said she weighed her decision on the sentence for McCullagh very carefully.
The judge told McCullagh that remembering the day Smith was killed “will be the worst part of the punishment.”