OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
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 catastrophes--accidents resulting 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.
|OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|