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Company Faces OSHA Fines Following Fatal Work Accident in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians who leave for work expect to return home safely at the end of the day. But unfortunately, many workers sustain serious injuries on the job or lose their lives. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 178 people died on the job in 2013 in Pennsylvania. Of that number of fatalities, 31 people died from contact with objects and equipment, according to the BLS.

In a recent Pennsylvania case, a roofer whose metal ladder came into contact with a 7,200-volt power line died. Astonishingly, the woodworking company allegedly sent another worker to finish the job "under the same hazardous conditions" three days after Andrew "CK" Sakala Jr., of West Tarentum, was electrocuted, according to a news report about the incident in NBC10.com.

A Philadelphia Workers' Compensation lawyer knows that the dependent survivors of employees who die on the job are entitled to receive death benefits. Such benefits may include loss of the financial support of the deceased; loss of companionship (known in legal circles as "loss of consortium"); compensation for unpaid medical expenses that may have incurred prior to death; and costs related to the funeral or burial.

But what can be done to prevent similar accidents from happening again? According to the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, family members who lose a loved one in a work accident cannot sue the employer for negligence if the employer carried mandatory Workers' Compensation insurance.  (There are exceptions, which is why it's best to speak with legal counsel for advice).

OSHA Investigates Fatal Workplace Accidents

An employer, however, can be fined if serious safety violations are found. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigates all fatal work accidents, and in some cases may levy a fine against a company.

According to another media report about the incident, TribLive states that OSHA wants to fine the defunct Kolek Woodshop Inc. of East Deer Township nearly $70,000 for allegedly sending another worker to finish the job three days after the fatal accident in September. OSHA found that the company allegedly provided the workers with a ladder without nonconductive side rails, according to TribLive. Additionally, OSHA alleged:

  • The company installed a scaffold made of aluminum too close to the power line.
  • The company exposed roofers to fall hazards.
  • The company did not train employees.

TribLive quoted an OSHA official who used strong language to describe the company's alleged actions:

"The blatant disregard for worker safety demonstrated is horrifying and completely despicable. This company's failure to implement basic safeguards resulted in tragedy," according to Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA's Pittsburgh area office.

"Employers must provide a safe and healthful workplace, and OSHA will hold them accountable if they do not," he added, according to the news report.

The company's owner wants to challenge some or all of OSHA's proposed fine. He stated he shut the company down for reasons other than the accident, NBC10.com reports.

On-the-job accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries can quickly become complex, which is why it's wise to consult with an experienced Workers' Compensation lawyer.

Contact the Law Offices of Richard A. Jaffe, LLC today for a free consultation. Call 866-800-3332 or visit www.phillyworkinjury.com if you suffered an injury in Philadelphia a loved one died in a work accident in Pennsylvania.

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