The president of a Montana company pled guilty to criminal charges under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) following the death of a worker at an asphalt plant. United States v. Romano (D. Mont. 2014). The charges stated that the president regularly required employees of the plant to climb a 13-foot-tall tank to measure asphalt amounts. The tank lacked guard rails to protect employees from falls, in violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard. An employee fell from the tank to his death.
The OSH Act allows for criminal charges and fines against employers who willfully violate safety standards, rules, or orders where that violation causes the death of any employee. This is consistent with OSHA’s emphasis on top management involvement in and accountability for workplace safety. Though criminal charges are rare, it’s important for employers to remember this aspect of the OSH Act in ensuring safety for all employees.