News Release USDL: 96-131
Wednesday, April 3, 1996
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming (202) 219-8151
OSHA Inspectors To Collect Data For Criminal
Prosecution And Contact Victims'
Families Early In Fatality
The Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) has
instructed its compliance officers
to review fatality and catastrophe
cases for possible criminal prosecution
and to establish early contact with
victims' families as part of an
overhaul of its inspection guidelines.
"OSHA will place a high priority
on prosecuting employers whose
willful neglect results in worker
deaths," Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health
Joseph A. Dear said in announcing
the updated instructions.
"Obviously the Justice Department
cannot take on every case we believe
has merit. Nevertheless, we intend
to carefully document evidence during
our inspections and refer to Justice
those cases we think demonstrate
employer disregard for employee
welfare. At the same time, we will
contact victims' families early in
our investigation and then share
our findings with them," Dear added.
The revised 10-page guidelines
outline steps for OSHA staff to take
in determining whether there may be
criminal violations of the Occupational
Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970.
The OSH Act permits criminal
prosecution of employers who willfully
violate OSHA standards when that
violation results in the death
of one or more workers.
Under the March 1, 1996,
directive, OSHA staff will
contact family members of victims
promptly to discuss the circumstances
of the accident or illness.
A letter will be sent to the
family member listed as the
emergency contact on the victim's
employment records. Family
members who respond to the
letter may be asked for additional
information to assist with the
investigation. They will be kept
up to date on the status of the
investigation and will receive a
copy of all citations, any
subsequent settlement agreements
or Occupational Safety and Health
Review Commission decisions as
these are issued.
The updated guidelines also
cover internal review of the case
before the agency issues citations
and the handling of formal and
informal settlement agreements.
If the incident has not destroyed
the workplace, the guidelines call
for a follow-up inspection if
citations for serious violations
have been issued.
Employers must report
in inpatient hospitalization of
three or more workers--and fatalities
to OSHA within eight hours.
Investigating the circumstances
of these workplace tragedies is
one of OSHA's highest priorities.
Only imminent dangers--conditions
likely to result in death or serious
physical harm--rank higher.
States operating their own
OSHA programs are encouraged
to adopt similar procedures for
their fatality investigations.
OSHA's Instruction CPL 2.113,
"Fatality Inspection Procedures,"
is available on the Internet at
http://www.osha.gov under Other
OSHA Documents, Directives, CPL 2.113.
This information also will be placed
on an upcoming issue of the OSHA CD-ROM.
Single printed copies are available
by mail to requestors who send a
self-addressed label to OSHA
Publications, P.O. Box 37535,
Washington, D.C. 20013-7535.