Earlier this week, Adrian Miedema, Partner of Dentons Canada LLP, examined how an Illinois business owner had been taken into custody by U.S. authorities after he failed to correct dangerous trenching hazards and pay his $110,440 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines dating back to 2012.
In April 2013, OSHA released a statement which described how the business owner in question had been cited for “seven safety violations including three willful, for failing to protect workers from cave-ins and moving soil and chunks of asphalt during trenching operations”. Nick Walters, a regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago, stated: “This is not the first time this contractor has exposed vulnerable workers to dangerous excavation hazards. These types of hazards result in numerous fatalities every year. No job should cost a worker’s life due to an employer’s failure to properly protect and train workers” .
After the Illinois business owner had neglected to pay his fines and correct the hazards in October 2013, the Court issued an enforcement order against him. The business owner continued to ignore the court order and this resulted in the Court threatening him with incarceration if he continued to disregard the court order, in July 2014.
On October 27, 2014, when the business owner had still failed to correct the hazards and pay his outstanding fines, the Seventh Circuit of Appeals granted a motion which the Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, had filed against the business owner. The next week, after the business owner failed to respond to the Court, a Secretary’s motion was granted to proceed with coercive actions and a U.S. Marshall was ordered to put the business owner in custody, where he remains to this date.
In his article, Adrian claims that “the case illustrates the personal risk to business owners and executives who neglect occupational health and safety legislation”.
It is essential for both employers and safety professionals to understand their roles and responsibilities with regards to health and safety as well as the consequences for failing to comply with OHS legislation.