Assignment #4 – R. Williams Construction Co. v. OSHRC Sarah Barnard February 26, 2012 Business Employment Law – HRM 510 Dr. Zelphia A. Brown, SPHR, Instructor Assignment # 4- R. Williams Construction Co. v. OSHRC 1. What were the legal issues in this case? This case is based around the laws and regulations of OSHA. OSHA is an Occupational Safety and Health Act that has been put into place to ensure the safety of employees while on the job.
These regulations are put into place to help reduce the number of on the job injuries and death. In this case, Williams Construction was put under investigation after a trench collapse, which resulted in the death of one employee and a serious injury in another. After the investigation Williams was charged with four OSHA violations that all resulted in expensive fines.
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The issues that arose from the investigation included; the failure to instruct employees and managers on how to recognize and avoid hazardous work conditions, the failure to ensure that employees did not have to travel more than twenty five feet to a safe zone, the failure to have a “competent person” that was specifically trained in trench safety and the final violation was the failure to make sure that the walls of the evocation were either sloped or supported. It is the belief of OSHA that if these regulations were followed that this tragic accident could have been avoided.
The legal issue here is whether or not the courts and the construction company itself should up hold the violations of specific OSHA standards. 2. Explain what the employer did or failed to do that violated the OSH Act. The first violation that was brought against Williams was the failure to provide instructions to employees and their managers about how to recognize and avoid un safe working conditions. This violation is basically stating that the company did not provide enough training to their employees to ensure that the job cite was safe.
This standard set in by OSHA is there to help employees to see the potential of work hazards and how to either avoid them or fix the issues in order to avoid injury or death. During interviews that were conducted during the investigation, it became evident that a lot of employees are no understanding of the OSHA regulations and had received no training on trench safety. The second violation states that Williams did not ensure that their employees did not have to travel more than twenty-five feet to a safe zone.
The trench that the employees were working was more than forty-five feet long and only had one exit. At the time of the collapse the employees in question were deep into the trench trying to clean out the water pumps that were in place. This causes a hazard for them because they were unable to reach safety or escape once the walls collapsed. The third violation stated the there was no “competent person” on the job that had extensive knowledge of trench safety. It is regulation by OSHA to have at least one person on cite that is able to spot existing and potential hazards on the job cite.
During the investigation it was clear that no employees had knowledge of OSHA or any of the regulations related to trench safety. The fourth and final violation was that Williams failed to ensure that the walls of the excavation were either sloped or supported. It was stated early in the case that the support provided by a hydraulic jack was removed the night before the collapse causes the walls and work environment to be un-stable. 3. Explain why it was “unavailing for Williams to argue that employees must take greater care to avoid placing themselves in harm’s way.
That argument was not effective because it is the responsibility of the managers and owners of the company to provide the proper training to employees before they are brought on to a work cite. It was stated multiple times through out the investigation by OSHA that employees were not receiving any training prior to being brought on to a work cite. As employers it was their responsibility to make sure that employees had the knowledge to work safely and to make sure that their employees had a full understanding of what OSHA regulations would be required to follow.
At one point of the investigation, the manager on site stated that he was responsible for the safety of his workers, but did not even look at the safety manual provided, even though it was right in the back seat of his truck. This just shows negligence on the company’s behalf. 4. Explain the role, if any, employees’ actions should have in determining liability under the OSH Act. Determining whether the employee or company is liable for violations that fall under OSHA regulations can be tough.
I think that as long as the company can provide concrete proof of training to their employee and provide evidence that from the side of the company everything was done to provide employees with the knowledge to work safe then they will not be at fault for the violations. Employee’s actions on a job site should be taken into consideration at all times. OSHA needs to conduct a full investigation in order to be able to determine what happened to cause these accidents or un safe conditions.
Working conditions should be the responsibility of the employer, but it is the job of the employee to practice and implement safe working practices. Questions like if the employee was under the influence of altering substances like alcohol or drugs should be accounted for as well. In order to determine liability a complete report including the employees actions should be considered. Reference Walsh, D. J. (2010). Employment law for human resource practice: 2010 custom edition (3rd ed. ). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.