A business owner in Springdale Borough, Pennsylvania, has pleaded guilty to a willful violation of occupational safety regulations that resulted in the electrocution and death of a Habitat for Humanity volunteer who was working on a home construction at the time of the fatal construction accident.
The man was later sentenced to one year of probation for his role in the electrocution, which occurred in 2010. The man chose to plead guilty to the crime in order to avoid the rigors of a bench trial in front of a U.S. Magistrate judge.
According to the reports of the accident, the electrocution victim, a 48-year-old man from Pittsburgh, was working too close to power lines with exposed currents at the time of the accident. The business owner was deemed responsible for those power line exposures and was later fined $57,900 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Given the circumstances of the death and the determination that the business owner was willfully at fault in failing to properly sheath the power lines, probation without jail time could be viewed as a positive result. It’s possible that the business owner could have been accused of involuntary manslaughter, a much more serious charge that would have carried much harsher punishments.
It’s likely that the business owner opted to plead guilty in order to avoid potentially heavier punishments as a resulting from the court case. The incident serves as a reminder to business owners that when it comes to workplace accident scenarios, unsafe working conditions can easily be targeted as the cause — and in those situations, the business owners overseeing the work environment can be held liable.
Source: TribLive.com, “Judge sentences Springdale man to probation in worker’s electrocution,” Liz Hayes, Oct. 26, 2012