A Pennsylvania-based roofing contractor who lied to OSHA in the aftermath of an employee death was sentenced March 29 to 10 months in prison.
James J. McCullagh, 60, pleaded guilty in December to four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of willfully violating an OSHA rule that caused a worker’s death.
In June 2013, one of McCullagh’s employees fell 45 feet from a roof bracket scaffold and died. During an investigation, OSHA determined McCullagh did not provide fall protection equipment to his employees. However, McCullagh lied to investigators about this fact on four occasions, and he directed other employees to tell investigators that they had been provided with fall protection gear.
Prosecutions of OSHA violators are rare, but they are growing in number. Recently, the Departments of Labor and Justice entered into an agreement to increase cooperation in the prosecution of individuals who disregard labor and environmental statutes.
Washington – A recent agreement between the Departments of Labor and Justice will launch a “new world of worker safety” by holding managers and supervisors criminally accountable for violations of the law, agency officials announced Dec. 17, 2015
The two departments signed a memorandum of understanding that pools their resources toward the prosecution of individuals who willfully disregard labor and environmental statutes, according to John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, who spoke at a press conference moments after the memo was signed.
For the past several years, OSHA and DOJ have worked with each other on certain cases, but the new agreement formalizes that relationship.
This cooperation could lead to hefty fines and prison terms for employers and individuals convicted of violating a number of related laws. For example, a roofing contractor recently pleaded guilty to violating an OSHA law, lying to inspectors and attempting to cover up his crime; he could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison.
“Strong criminal sanctions are a powerful tool to ensure employers comply with the law and protect the lives, limbs and lungs of our nation’s workers,” OSHA administrator David Michaels told reporters at the press conference.
Deborah Harris, DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section chief, said prosecutions would be open to “the ones making the decisions that lead to the deaths of others,” which could include people in the corporate office, as well as managers and supervisors.
DOL & DOJ Memorandum of Understanding: https://www.justice.gov/enrd/file/800431/download
Source: OSHA Quick Takes & NSC Safety & Health Magazine