Pennsylvania employers run the risk of criminal penalties if an employee dies on the job and if the death was due to a willful health and safety violation, but criminal prosecution in these circumstances is rare. Only 88 workplace fatalities were prosecuted between 1970 and 2015 out of more than 400,000 workplace fatalities.
The possibility of prosecution is covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Six months in jail and a fine of $250,000 can be the penalty for a person, and a corporation could be fined as much as $500,000. A person might also be prosecuted under environmental laws or laws against perjury.
Successful prosecution hinges upon the word “willful”. In this context, it means that the employer was either indifferent to the violation or knowingly committed the violation. There may still be civil penalties for a willful violation if a death did not occur. Furthermore, in January of this year, a Protecting America’s Workers Act was introduced. It could increase jail time for a violation to 10 years.
People who are injured at work might be eligible for workers’ compensation. This may help them pay medical expenses and might cover some of their lost wages if they have missed work. However, they might want to discuss their situation with an attorney. Getting workers’ compensation generally means that an individual cannot sue an employer, and a person might be more likely to be awarded workers’ compensation than win a civil suit. However, there may be circumstances in which an injured worker might want to file the civil suit instead. In other cases, if a manufacturer or another third party is responsible for the accident, the worker might also want to file a civil suit.