The Possible Legal Consequences of Circumventing Occupational Safety

Consequences of Violating Safety Rules

Generally speaking when an employee is observed doing something unsafe, they are subjected to a corresponding set of consequences. First offenses for minor issues is generally a verbal warning. The second violation is a written warning which might go on their record. The third offense may include a few days suspension without pay. If the employee is observed a fourth time violating the same safety regulation they may be fired from some facilities.

And not just employees but supervisors and managers should be disciplined as well. However it seems to many that the further up the ladder you go, the harder it is to apply that discipline. For many people employed at facilities across the nation it comes as a strong hypocritical practice; a double standard. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The Bigger They Are…

The more responsibilities someone has the more significant the consequences they have. At least that’s how it should be. In fact, many prosecutors feel the same way when it comes to significant occupational negligence. They want to hold corporate executives responsible when there is an employee death due to neglected safety hazards.

Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster

On April 5, 2010 in a coal mine in West Virginia there was an explosion that resulted in the death of 29 miners. You can read all about the shocking details on the Wikipedia page here. Throughout the hearings, testimonies and legal back-and-forth, information was brought up which indicated that key decision makers were conspiring to violate mine safety laws. The mining industry is heavily regulated and many mines are visited on a monthly basis to asses their compliance. However, when the dust settled, the former Massey Energy, CEO Don Blankenship, was convicted and sentenced a one-year prison term in California. He is the one of the highest ranking chief executives to face criminal charges and jail time for a workplace fatality.

Executive Precedence

What do you think? Do you feel that going after corporate executives is an excessive method in the pursuit of justice? How much influence can they have over day to day operations. Are the really liable? Or, do you think that his is a the right direction we need to go? That corporate executives could be the most liable and they need to be responsible for their company decisions. In any case, Mr Blankenship went to prison in May 2016 to serve his year term and is scheduled for release on May 10th 2017. I think its clear that this may be a new direction our legal system is willing to go and that corporate executives will do well to make sure their decisions are in the best interest of the people working for them as their lives may depend on it.

And may it be with all of us who work in a position of authority, power or decision making. Let us all make the best decision we can. Not to avoid negative consequences but because as safety professionals we strive to protect and preserve life and property wherever we go. We live to create value.