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How Some Worker Safety Violations Can Result in Criminal Consequences

A recent news commentary from Fair Warning looks at how some workplace accidents could result in criminal charges and consequences.  As the article notes, when we typically think of crimes taking place in the workplace, we think of an employee being assaulted, a robbery at a gas station or even a bank, an employee accused of stealing something, and things along those lines.

workHowever, some workplace accidents can also be a crime. This is an instance when an employer knowingly disregards workplace safety regulations, and it results in a serious injury or death.  Under some circumstances when this happens, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will investigate the situation and can levy fines.  In some more serious cases, the local police or an attorney general may decide to pursue criminal charges.  While it not an everyday occurrence, it certainly does happen from time to time.

One example that our Boston workplace injury attorneys are familiar with involves what is known as a machine guarding violation.  Most large machines in workplaces can be very dangerous.   The way to prevent accidents is for all workers to be properly trained and for there to be lockouts and machine guards in place.

A lock out device is a lock that is normally bright yellow or orange that it placed on the controls of a machine to lock it in the off position.  An example of a device that needs a lock out mechanism is a large trash compactor in big box stores.  It is often necessary for a worker to go inside the machine if something like a cardboard box is jamming the mechanism.  When the worker goes inside the compactor, he or she is not visible to other workers.  If someone activated the machine, the worker would be seriously injured or killed.  The way to prevent this is for that worker to turn off the machine and place a lockout device on the controls.  He or she will have the only key to the device, so that nobody else can start the compactor.

If an employer did not have the system in place and did not train employees how to protect themselves, and someone was injured or killed, the employer might be criminally responsible.  In some case we see these same types of accidents happen time and again at the same employers.

While this may result in criminal charges, and it is not necessary for workers’ compensation Boston for the employer to have violated any law or even to have been responsible for the accident in any way.  The reason for this is because in Massachusetts, the workers’ compensation system is no fault.  All that is necessary is to prove that the worker is an employee and that he or she was injured on the job or suffers from a work related illness.

However, if it can be established that employer was acting with a complete or reckless disregard for the safety of employees, and that resulted in a serious injury or death, it may be possible to file a civil personal injury lawsuit in addition to workers’ compensation claim.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

When a Workplace Tragedy is Also a Crime, May 31, 2016, Fair Warning, BY Rena Steinzor and Katerine Tracey

More Blog Entries:

Opioid Use in Boston Workers’ Compensation Cases Posing Serious Health Threat, April 10, 2016, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog