When an accident occurs in the workplace, there are a number of issues that can arise for the employer. The injured employee can seek workers’ compensation if the employer was negligent and OSHA can issue citations if an investigation reveals violations of safety and health regulations.
But there are other legal processes that can arise in the event of a workplace accident. In the deaths of five men, there is no exception. In a previous post, we discussed the case involving Xcel Energy and five employees who died in a fire.
Though OSHA investigated the incident, Xcel Energy had also been criminally charged with the deaths of their five employees. Just recently, families of the five men who perished in the workplace accident showed up to the court proceedings in order to support the memory of their loved ones.
In court, Xcel Energy was accused of violating safety rules set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on five separate counts, one for each of the men that died while on the job. The regulations said that rescue equipment should have been available and ready to save the men in case of a fire. Xcel Energy did not have any rescue equipment available at the time of the accident to bring the men to safety
After three days of deliberation by a federal jury, Xcel Energy was found not guilty of violating OSHA regulations. After the verdict was read, two of the widows of the deceased who were present were extremely disappointed in the verdict. They believe that, in addition to the safety violation citations, the company should be held responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.
Source: Denver Post online, “Xcel Energy found not guilty in 2007 deaths of five workers in Colorado,” John Ingold, 29 June 2011