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Criminal charges follow fatal workplace injuries investigation

The California Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration works in close cooperation with the San Francisco District Attorney in ensuring that criminal behavior that causes injuries and deaths in the workplace is properly addressed. As part of the agency's commitment, a criminal investigation was launched into the 2012 death of a worker whose fall caused fatal workplace injuries. Following a thorough investigation, the construction company owner and a foreman were charged with manslaughter -- to which both men pleaded not guilty at a recent hearing.

According to the accident report, the worker built a make-shift scaffold structure to allow him to lower the opening of a window in a stairwell in a residence where construction was being carried out. The structure was not secure, had no guardrails and was in violation of safety regulations. The worker, who was not provided with fall protection, reportedly fell down the 18-foot shaft and landed on the concrete of the basement floor. Emergency workers found him unresponsive and rushed him to a hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

It was determined that, although the foreman was fully aware of the fact that the make-shift scaffold structure, cobbled together by the worker, was in violation of the company's safety code, he failed to stop the worker from getting onto it. Furthermore, the company was accused of failure to provide fall protection and training related to working at heights. Cal/OSHA contends that its investigators will take necessary action when potentially criminal behavior threatens the lives of workers.

Although the loss of a loved one who suffered fatal workplace injuries naturally leaves a permanent void in the lives of surviving family members, the financial burden may be eased by the financial relief offered by the California workers' compensation insurance fund. Covered dependents may pursue claims for death benefits that typically cover the costs of a funeral and burial. Medical costs for the time leading up to the death of the worker will also be covered. Furthermore, a financial package that is based on the deceased worker's wage level may also form part of the compensation.

Source: safety.blr.com, "Construction company owner, foreman charged with manslaughter following worker death", Sept. 29, 2015

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