DOJ Prosecutes 3 Criminal Cases Related to OSHA

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said earlier this year that it would work closely with OSHA to prosecute employers whose willful violations led to fatalities. Specifically, DOJ said it would be formally collaborating with OSHA in pursuing cases related to worker safety and safe working conditions as well as environmental crimes that impact worker safety. Three recent criminal cases show DOJ wasn’t bluffing.

In May 2022, DOJ prosecuted one company and several management members for an environmental crime that killed several workers. Three months later, it prosecuted two other companies for OSH Act crimes that led to workplace fatalities.

Case(s) in Point

Case 1: A 2017 dust explosion that led to 5 fatalities and 15 injuries prompted the DOJ to file charges. The company faces over $1 million in fines and 6 company officials are facing 20 years in prison. The DOJ alleged that the company, and six of its officials willfully violated two federal safety standards by:

  • Failing to implement a written program to effectively prevent and remove combustible grain dust accumulations, and
  • By not installing venting or suppression on a dust filter collector to prevent an explosion.

The company was also accused of falsifying entries in a cleaning logbook and providing false and misleading testimony regarding knowledge about combustible dust hazards.

Case 2: On August 15th, ABC Polymer Industries was charged with two OSH Act crimes for machine guarding after a worker was pulled into unguarded moving rollers that were part of a plastic extrusion assembly line. This case is ongoing.

Case 3: Tampa Electric Company was sentenced for an OSH Act crime on August 18th. The crime involved a willful failure to brief employees about “hazards of the job, work protections, special precautions, energy source controls, and personal protective equipment.” That failure led to the June 2017 Big Bend Power Station explosion that killed five workers and severely burned another.

A federal court ordered the company to serve 36 months of probation, pay a $500,000 fine and implement a safety plan following the company’s guilty plea for willfully violating an OSHA standard.

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