The press release below announces criminal, manslaughter charges being filed against a construction company business owner for failing to manage OSHA fall protection requirements.

This case demonstrates that The DOL (Department of Labor, OSHA is a department within DOL) & DOJ (Department of Justice) may actually be following through on their initiative announced in December, 2015 to begin holding business owners directly and criminally responsible by filing felony (rather than misdemeanor charges which were prevalent in the past) charges for preventable workplace fatalities.  Criminal liabilities for business owners, and even management, have long standing precedence in environmental (EPA) violation prosecutions, but historically OSHA hasn’t done this.  This could be changing.

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Keep in mind that criminal liabilities can rise dramatically after a company has been previously cited by OSHA, and/or if Willfulness (ie: knowing about a hazard, but failing to take action to correct it) can be proven. 

Construction company owner indicted for manslaughter after failure to heed multiple safety warnings leads to worker’s death

Salvatore Schirripa, a Bensonhurst, N.Y., construction company owner, has been indicted on manslaughter and other charges following the April 2015 death of Vidal Sanchez-Ramon, his employee at a Coney Island work site. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Sanchez-Ramon was smoothing concrete on the sixth floor of the work site when he reached the edge and fell to his death. He was not wearing a harness, nor was fall protection installed as required by OSHA and the New York City Building Code. This fatal incident followed multiple warnings and citations to Schirripa since 2011 from OSHA and the New York City Department of Buildings for failing to provide effective fall protection.

It is alleged that several days prior to Sanchez-Ramon’s death, Schirripa visited the worksite and saw that the wire cable fence was positioned several feet in from the edge, along one side of the floor. Nevertheless, Schirripa directed that his workers pour and smooth the concrete outside the wire cable fence without harnesses, ultimately leading to Sanchez-Ramon’s death.

“The deaths of Mr. Sanchez and the seven other New York City construction workers in falls in 2015 were all needless and preventable,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Robert Kulick. “This indictment sends a strong message to those employers who would neglect their legal responsibility to provide their employees with safe workplaces and working conditions.”

For more, see the Brooklyn District Attorney Office’s news release.