Employee fatalities, willful violations now mean OSHA criminal referrals

Updated Jan 15, 2013

Osh Alogo1 E1356015023816OSHA has begun to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department in every case involving an employee fatality and a willful violation, Safety News Alert reported.

These cases may or may not result in a criminal charge; that decision is made by a local United States attorney.

In order for OSHA to convict an employer of willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act causing loss of human life, a prosecutor must prove an OSHA standard has been violated; that the employer committed the violation; the violation was the direct cause of an employee’s death and that the employer willfully committed the violation.

In addition to OSHA’s charges, prosecutors may use the environmental infractions to increase penalties (because penalties for EPA violations are are often larger) and states can prosecute
companies and employers under their individual criminal laws.

Employers prosecuted for willful violations of the OSH Act causing loss of human life may pay fines up to $250,000 and spend up to six months in prison; organizations may pay up to $500,000 in fines.