Colorado workers can expect that their employer will provide them with a safe environment and that they are safe from injury while at work. Although all Colorado employees are owed this, some employers expose their workers to extremely dangerous or deadly conditions, and when a worker is injured, he or she is entitled to compensation, lost wages, and dependency and death benefits.
Some companies can also be held criminally liable for their egregious violations of workplace safety, such as a specialty painting company that is being prosecuted for numerous workplace safety violations. In 2007, the company lost five employees after they were in a fire at a hydroelectric plant near Denver and it was charged with five counts of misdemeanor workplace safety violations resulting in death.
The five employees had been working in a pipeline at the power plant, resealing a portion of the pipe at the time of the fire. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the fire was caused by one of the chemicals the company used to clean a paint sprayer.
After the fire started, the men were trapped for 45 minutes, desperately trying to get help. The employees' colleagues were in radio contact with them throughout the ordeal, but they refused to scale down a 20-foot vertical tunnel and walk down a sloped section of the tunnel in order to reach the trapped workers.
The families of the workers have already sued the employer and the owner of the hydroelectric plant. The owner of the power plant has settled the families' lawsuits for millions of dollars, but it is unclear if the employer has paid its employees' families for their losses. The plea deal that the employer is expected to agree to, however, requires the company to pay its victims' families by the holiday season.
Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Attorneys: Firm to plead in power plant deaths," Dec. 1, 2011