The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Massachusetts-based P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. with over $70,000 in fines for willfully exposing its employees to electrocution hazards. During a May 9 inspection of a Cambridge work site, OSHA inspectors found employees using a trench rod and a fiberglass pole with a metal end to lift overhead power lines so that excavating equipment could move under the lines and onto the jobsite. This placed workers at risk of electrocution and serious burns. OSHA had previously cited P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. for a similar violation in 2011 at a Framingham work site, which is why OSHA cited the company for a willful violation. A “willful violation” is one “committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Plain Indifference to Worker Health and Safety
Some construction site injuries are due to an employer’s carelessness or negligent disregard of workplace dangers. The employer may have not been aware of the specific dangers of a particular jobsite, or an employer may be an “absentee” employer who does not supervise his or her employees. This sort of negligence or carelessness can obviously result in the employer being liable for workers compensation benefits for injuries caused by hazards the employer should have known about and addressed with his or her employees. Even if the employer was not negligent, the employer can still liable for workers compensation benefits if the injury was causally related to the employment.
Liability can also result where an employer acts intentionally as well. But proving intentional conduct is more difficult than simply showing an employer was careless. In order to show intentional conduct, the injured plaintiff must usually present additional evidence he or she might not present in a simple negligence case.
The Purpose of Showing Intentional Conduct
One might ask why go through the trouble of showing intentional conduct by an employer. In cases of serious and willful misconduct by an employer, workers compensation benefits can be doubled.