I wanted to make all of you aware of this rare enforcement case which occurred last week where the owner of a roofing company, Shawn D.Purvis, faces a $1.7 million dollar fine and criminal manslaughter charges after one of his employees died from a fall.

From the OSHA news release:

“Due to Purvis’ knowledge of the hazard and required safeguards, along with an extensive history of violations, OSHA cited him for 13 egregious willful violations – one for each exposed employee per job site – for failing to ensure the use of fall protection. Each egregious citation carries the maximum allowable penalty of $132,598. OSHA also cited Purvis for failing to provide fall protection training to his employees, and for exposing them to electrocution and eye hazards. OSHA has cited the owner for seven violations of fall protection requirements since September 2006.”

Two aspects of this enforcement case are very rare: 

  • Fines exceeding $1million:  These large fines do happen, but it’s rare and especially for a small company.
  • Criminal Charges: OSHA, and local prosecutors, always have the option to seek criminal charges when a fatality occurs due to an employer’s willful neglect of OSHA standards, but rarely do so.

In other words, this certainly isn’t the first time that a workplace fatality occurred after an employer willfully neglected safety standards, it happens every year.  Could this be a signal that OSHA intends to start ramping up criminal prosecutions?

This is also a strong reminder of the importance of managing Fall Protection standards at construction sites, especially given that falls are historically the #1 workplace killer and Fall Protection is consistently the #1 violation/citation issued to construction companies each year.

And if your company, or one of your subcontractors has already been cited for Fall Protection violations in the past, it’s a stark reminder of the potential consequences if a fatal fall later occurs at one of your projects.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have questions or want to see the OSHA press release.