When a worker’s death appears to have been caused by the egregious fault of the employer, company owners could be criminally charged. A grand jury indicted an Ohio company and two of its managers on a recent Friday. The case relates to a safety violation that allegedly claimed the life of a worker in 2012.
The company treats hazardous and dangerous waste at a facility in Cincinnati. Toward the end of Dec. 2012, several workers were in the process of cleaning an industrial filter containing sodium chlorate. This substance is known to have sensitivity to friction, and a flash fire caused an explosion. One of the workers lost his life in the blast.
The criminal charges against the defendants include reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter and violation of the solid waste license terms. The charges against the supervisors also include failure to ensure that safety precautions were taken to prevent fires and explosions. Reportedly, workers did not receive appropriate training for working with hazardous materials. Charges for tampering with evidence were included, based upon allegations that records falsely recorded that workers had received the required training.
Charging company owners and responsible supervisors in criminal court may benefit Ohio workers in the long run. However, workplace accidents will likely continue to occur, and even if an injury does not result from a safety violation, any worker who suffers a workplace injury may pursue workers’ compensation benefits claims. If it can be shown that the injury is work-related, the insurance program will typically provide compensation for medical expenses and lost income in a case in which the injury caused the worker to be absent from work. In cases in which an employer is found guilty of criminal conduct, an injured employee may have grounds for a civil lawsuit apart from any workers’ compensation claim, depending upon the facts and circumstances unique to the case.
Source: wcpo.com, “Company, supervisors indicted in employee’s death”, Jan. 8, 2016