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Fatal construction accident prompts criminal charges

Construction workers typically understand that they are subject to a number of work-related hazards that simply don’t exist in other fields. It’s for that reason that California state and federal safety guidelines are implemented to specifically address a large number of concerns and scenarios confronted by construction workers on a daily basis. Ultimately, however, such precautions are only effective in promoting worker safety if they are properly implemented by construction employers and managers.

The CEO of a northern California construction company, as well as the company’s project manager, was recently arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter for the death of a construction worker. The felony count carries a maximum prison sentence of three years. And beyond that, the company faced labor code violations amounting to more than $1 million. According to one source familiar with the case, the district attorney was pursuing criminal charges because the company officials chose to ignore the obvious safety concerns that resulted in a fatal construction accident. Already, the CEO’s contractor license was suspended for his failure to provide employees with workers comp coverage, and well over $150,000 in fines was issued against the construction company by Cal-OSHA for safety violations.

In early 2012, a city building inspector ordered for work to be suspended on a construction site over concerns that recent rains had made the ground unstable. Construction apparently continued, however, and another stop-work order was issued. The incident culminated in a wall of dirt caving in on a 38-year-old construction worker, resulting in his death. The district attorney characterized the incident as criminal.

Construction workers and their families have rights that protect them against negligence and/or unnecessarily dangerous conditions. Speaking with an attorney can be helpful in learning about one’s legal options in such cases.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, “Milpitas: Company officials charged with involuntary manslaughter in worker’s cave-in death,” Katie Nelson, August 12, 2014

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