The owner of a roofing company could go to prison for up to 25 years in connection with the death of a construction worker who fell off a roof. The worker didn’t have fall protection.
James McCullagh, 60, of Meadowbrook, PA, pleaded guilty in federal court to six charges in connection with the death of Mark Smith, 52, in June 2013. McCullagh will be sentenced on March 29, 2016. Besides prison time, he could also face a fine and supervised release.
McCullagh pleaded guilty to one count of willfully violating an OSHA regulation causing death to an employee (failing to provide fall-safety equipment) and four counts of making false statements. He admitted telling investigators he had provided safety gear and harnesses to his employees when he hadn’t.
The owner of James J. McCullagh Roofing Inc. of Philadelphia admitted telling an OSHA inspector he’d seen his employees in harnesses and tied off earlier on the day that Smith fell to his death.
McCullagh also pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice for telling workers to say to OSHA investigators that they had safety equipment when they didn’t.
The company still faces civil penalties from OSHA.
Smith fell 45 feet from a roof bracket scaffold while repairing the roof of a church in Philadelphia.
“No penalty can bring back the life of this employee,” said OSHA chief David Michaels, “but the outcome in this case will send a clear message that when employers blatantly and willfully ignore worker safety and health responsibilities, resulting in death or serious injury to workers, or lie to or obstruct OSHA investigators, we will pursue enforcement to the fullest extent of the law, including criminal prosecution.”
While criminal prosecution in worker fatalities is still a rarity, the likelihood of charges being brought increases when there is a suspicion of lying to OSHA or other federal officials.