Can failure to adhere to OSHA laws and regulations be criminal?

The cost of doing business is steep, but it might be even steeper than you would imagine. As an employer, failure to adhere to safety standards and procedures in the workplace doesn’t just have the potential to result in hefty OSHA fines or civil suits, but as a recent spate of court cases has shown—you may even be held liable for criminal charges, as well. 

A Brooklyn business owner is facing eight criminal counts—among them negligent homicide and second-degree manslaughter—for his role in the death of an employee who fell from the sixth floor while working. In the same month, the owner of a construction company in San Francisco was brought to trial for manslaughter in a similar case. This employer was charged with manslaughter and two felony violations of the labor code for failure to install a safety railing or lock the wheels of scaffolding at a worksite where a worker plunged to his death. 

Cases like these are becoming increasingly more commonplace and highlight the need for business owners in Hawaii to be more proactive in providing their workers a safe, hazard-free workplace. Here are three things to keep in mind as you work toward ensuring compliance with OSHA laws and regulations. 

  1. Examine the worksite. The first thing you should do is inspect working conditions to ensure conformity with all applicable OSHA standards. These standards vary by the type of work and the nature of the workplace. OSHA also requires that the OSHA poster (or the Hawaii state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities be posted in a location that is easily accessible to all employees. 

  2. Prioritize safety training. As a business owner, you are also required to provide your workers with adequate safety training. Safety training should be tailored to cover all foreseeable workplace dangers and hazards. Employers whose workplaces may include hazardous chemicals must also develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and take proper precautions. OSHA recommends devising systems using color codes, posters, labels, or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.

  3. Correct cited violations. One commonality of both aforementioned criminal cases in Brooklyn and San Francisco is a failure to correct OSHA cited violations. OSHA requires that all OSHA citations be posted at or near the work area involved. Each citation must remain posted until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer.  

Ensuring compliance with all OSHA laws and regulations is an ongoing responsibility. Not only does the health of your employees depend on your compliance, but the very health of your business itself depends on your vigilance. To see what other obligations you’re required to meet as an employer, visit the OSHA website

[RELATED ARTICLEDepartment of Labor announces final overtime rule.]

Updated on May 8, 2017 11:46