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Williams Construction Co. v. OSHA Case Case Study

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Updated: Feb 26th, 2021

Regulations of the Occupational Safety Health Act

In this case, the violation of the Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA) laws and regulations was the center of the legal procedure. The legal issue was to determine whether Williams Construction Company had violated OSHA laws and regulations (Walsh, 2010). In the case, OSHA accused R. Williams Construction Company (Williams), a Californian company specializing in construction, of violating the standards of regulation at a sewer construction site. One employee was killed and another seriously injured. Before the case, Williams Company was carrying out a sewer construction project at Chumash Casino Project at Santa Ynez, California. On September 9, 2002, two of Williams’ employees, Jose Arguiniga and Adam Palomar, worked in the trench when it collapsed, killing Arguiniga and seriously injuring Palomar.

Upon investigations, OSHA alleged that Williams had violated 29 U.S.C. Section 651-678 of Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970. The study concluded that four areas of the law were violated:

  1. It argued that the company (as the employer) had failed to provide its employees with prior information and instructions on recognizing and avoiding threats caused by hazardous conditions at the workplace (Walsh, 2010).
  2. Williams did not implement the required methods to provide an easily accessible safe zone in the construction site.
  3. OSHA alleged that Williams had violated the standards because it had failed to hire competent personnel with the required skills and training in trench safety.
  4. OSHA cited a failure to adhere to building standards because the trench walls were neither sloped nor supported.

Therefore, OSHA argued that if all these conditions were met, the accident could have been avoided. The two individuals could not have been victims of the incident.

The investigations by OSHA

As described in OSHA’s investigations, the company could have avoided the incident or injuries and death if it had observed the laid down standards and regulations in the construction. First, the company failed to provide instructions to its employees regarding the means of recognizing and avoiding working under hazardous conditions as described under 1926.21(b)(2) 29 C.F.R. §. Secondly, the company did not provide its employees with the required training and skills for risk mitigation and avoidance of hazardous working conditions. The company failed to prevent its employees from entering the trench on the day it collapsed. Section 29 C.F.R. § 1926.652 (the) (1) was violated because the company failed to provide adequate measures to ensure that its employees were protected from cave-ins (Walsh, 2010). Williams should have been aware that the two employees would enter the trench as a part of their routine at the workplace. It was argued that the company had prior knowledge that the employees would join the track because it was their role and duty. Moreover, the company failed to ensure that an expert in healthy working conditions in trench building was present at the construction site. No special training was provided to the employees.

Employees were acting in good faith

There were reasons to believe that the employees were acting in good faith. In addition, this practice was part of their duty. This means that the company required them to enter the trench to execute their responsibilities. According to the rules under OSHA, employers have an obligation to provide healthy working conditions for their employees. In addition, under tort law, employers and companies have a duty of care, which implies that it is their legal responsibility to ensure that individuals within their premises are not posed to potential threats and hazards.

In fact, William’s conduct, in this case, amounts to negligence. It is also the employers’ responsibility to provide the required and adequate training on safety and health at the workplace (Walsh, 2010). Every organization has the duty to implement the necessary standards and procedures that should be followed in case of disasters like the trench collapse. Moreover, the argument by Williams is not legally justified because the regulations on standards of building trenches because they were walls were neither sloped nor supported. In fact, violation of building standards led to the collapse of the walls, which implies that the company is guilty of causing death and injury of its employees (Walsh, 2010). Therefore, Williams should not argue that the two employees contributed to their fate. If all the safety and health standards had been implemented, the two employees would not have moved to the location.

Under the OSHA Act

Under the OSHA Act, employees are also required to contribute to the overall process of ensuring safe and healthy working conditions. In fact, Section 5(b) of the Ac requires each employee to comply with safety and health standards and all the regulations, rules as well as orders issued at the workplace in regards to the act (Connolly & Crowell, 2011). These rules, regulations, and standards should be issued pursuant to the OSHA. They are applicable to the conduct of every employee.

References

Connolly, W. B., & Crowell, D. R. (2011). A Practical Guide to the Occupational Safety and Health Act. New York: A.L.M. Press.

Walsh, D. J. (2010). Employment law for human resource practice: 2010 custom edition. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

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