- The president of a San Francisco construction company was arrested this week, along with two of his employees, and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2016 steamroller death of another employee, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In addition to a felony involuntary manslaughter charge, each one also faces three felony violations of labor codes.
- Prosecutors allege that Michael Sommer, head of LC General Engineering and Construction, and two of his employees, Manuel Silao and Ramiro Pena-Pena, allowed one of the company's workers to operate a steamroller on a city jobsite without any previous training. The worker lost control of the steamroller, crushing and killing Maurilio Rojas.
- The company is contesting a Cal/OSHA fine of $52,810 after the agency cited it for a total of six violations, including four categorized as "serious."
This is the latest example of local authorities going above and beyond fines and penalties in an effort to make an example of construction companies that they believe have not taken enough care to ensure the safety of their employees.
The excuse that employers or their representatives on the jobsite aren't aware of which safety rules to follow isn't an argument that is likely to hold water in court. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit Court sided with OSHA's decision to issue a willful safety violation citation to a Georgia mechanical contractor after a fatal fall on one of its jobsites, rejecting the employer's claims that the foreman in charge was unaware of the appropriate safety requirements. The company argued that its "flawed" training program was to blame, but the judge rejected its appeal. In fact, the judge found that the foreman had such a lack of regard for safety on the job that even if he had been trained properly, he still would have likely ignored safety procedures.
Earlier this year, a contractor in Seattle was charged with second-degree manslaughter after one of his workers was killed in a trench collapse. Prosecutors claim that Alki Construction and its owner Phillip Numrich were aware of the steps they needed to follow to make the trench safe, but did not do so. This was the first time an employer in Washington state was charged with a felony in connection to a worker's death.