Under the rigorous guidelines and oversight of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) (and the state equivalent), employers have long had a roadmap for protecting workers from the many dangers of unsafe work practices and hazardous environments. All employers and employees are accustomed to slogans such as Safety First, Safety is No Accident, Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility and so on. However, the role of supervisors in ensuring a safe work environment far surpasses the gravity of any slogan or catch phrase, especially as it pertains to a supervisor’s direct exposure for personal liability when his or her supervision is found to be criminally negligent.
Negligence in general is the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation and/or any conduct that falls below the legal standard established to protect others against unreasonable risk of harm (Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th edition). Negligence may become criminal when a supervisor grossly deviates from that standard of care so much so that the action is punishable as a crime. The latter should stand out in the mind of all supervisors and professionals with direct (and sometimes indirect) responsibilities for their company’s safety and health programs. The many guidelines enforced by OSHA are in fact a baseline for the standard of care that is required by employers in maintaining a safe workplace. In fact, OSHA’s mission clearly indicates its role is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
In this digital age, there are numerous avenues for employers to gain access to real-time training information and compliance requirements from governing agencies, such as the Department of Labor, the Department of Insurance and many more. For example, OSHA offers access to “QuickTakes” – an employer or supervisor visits www.osha.gov/about.html and enters his or her email address and is automatically signed up to receive a free e-newsletter. These newsletters provide important information in an active way that may be beneficial to proactively changing a policy or procedure in accordance with a new law that the employer may not have otherwise known about.
There are frequent headlines in the news circuit regarding workplace accidents and imposed criminal penalties because of a supervisor’s criminal negligence and/or conduct. Here are a few examples...
• Owner, Supervisor Jailed for Workers’ Death
• Supervisors and Worker Charged Under Health and Safety Act
• Safety Manager Charged in Worker’s Death
• Company Officials Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in Teen Worker’s Death
Other newsworthy incidents can be found at www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases.
United Staffing Associates has a team of experienced and knowledgeable health & safety professionals that can assist clients with worksite assessments and recommended training[s]. If you are an employee of United Staffing Associates, reach out to us at (805) 269-2677 if you have any safety-related questions or concerns or visit our website at www.UnitedWeStaff.com to find the contact information for your local branch.