A company pleaded guilty to willfully violating an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule in the deaths of five workers at a power plant. According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) news release, the company used a contractor to perform high pressure water blasting in an attempt to clear a slag accumulation. Several safety procedures were ignored, and five persons were killed when a slag accumulation came loose, spraying the area with molten slag.
Failure to Follow Safety Procedures
The company pleaded guilty to willfully failing to follow an OSHA safety standard. Specifically, the company failed to conduct the pre-job briefing that would have alerted the workers to certain safety procedures that were not followed.
Fine, Probation, and a Third-Party Auditor
In the plea agreement, the company agreed to pay a $500,000 fine, serve a three-year probation, and hire a third-party safety auditor to review its safety procedures. The company must implement any procedures identified by the auditor that are necessary to comply with OSHA rules.
The plea agreement referenced a confidential settlement the company made with the families of the five deceased workers. That settlement eliminated the need for the plea agreement to require restitution. Companies should remember that plea agreements in cases involving serious worker injuries or fatalities may require restitution or proof of adequate civil settlements to compensate the victims or their families.