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September 29, 2015
Construction company owner, foreman charged with manslaughter following worker death

Cal/OSHA’s criminal investigation into the December 2012 falling death of a 51-year-old carpenter in San Francisco resulted in manslaughter charges by the San Francisco District Attorney against the worker’s employer and foreman.

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The owner of the construction company, along with his foreman, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to the manslaughter charges and two counts of violation of the labor code. “When our investigations uncover potentially criminal behavior by employers, we exercise our full jurisdiction not only to protect workers but to also make referrals to the District Attorney for prosecution where appropriate,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Relations’ (DIR). Cal/OSHA is a division in DIR.

On December 26, 2012, a worker was assigned to lower a window frame opening in the main stairwell of a residential construction site in San Francisco. He built a nailed-bracket scaffold and used two scaffold planks to access the window located more than 18 feet above ground. He was not wearing fall protection, and the scaffold did not have guardrails. He was found unresponsive at the base of the stairwell, having fallen 18.5 feet to the concrete basement floor. He was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he later died from his injuries.

“When preventable deaths occur, employers must be held accountable,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The indictments today are a testament to the close working relationship between Cal/OSHA and the San Francisco District Attorney and our commitment to ensure that criminal behavior in the workplace is addressed.”

Cal/OSHA’s investigation determined that the construction company had failed to provide fall protection training to its workers at the site, and that the foreman was aware that the worker had cobbled together a prohibited type of scaffolding in direct violation to the employer’s own safety program.

“Employers in California are required to provide the necessary protections for their workers in order to prevent a tragedy such as this”, said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “With the significant amount of construction going on in San Francisco right now, it is more important than ever for everyone to follow all the rules and regulations around a job site.”

Cal/OSHA’s civil investigation resulted in the issuance of four citations with penalties totaling $25,870 on March 29, 2013, including two citations for serious violations.

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