Years of effort on behalf of construction workers and their families have finally paid off with the passage of “Carlos’ Law,” named for the 22-year-old immigrant, Carlos Moncayo, who was killed in a tragic accident back in 2015.
On the day of the accident, an inspector visited the construction site and warned the construction company that the 13-foot-deep trench Moncayo was working on was not reinforced with the proper earth-retaining equipment and that it was unsafe. An hour later, the trench collapsed, burying Moncayo alive.
A small fine wasn’t enough of a deterrent
While the contractor involved in the incident described above was convicted of crimes associated with the young worker’s death, this incident brought attention to the fact that the maximum fine the contractor faced from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was a mere $10,000. That’s roughly the same amount that it would have cost the contractor to stabilize the trench in the first place.
In the construction industry, $10,000 is a mere drop in the bucket. The new law raises the fine for criminal liability to $300,000 for a misdemeanor offense and $500,000 for a felony-level offense on the part of the contractor or company involved. Essentially, the law is designed to make it cost-prohibitive not to use proper safety measures.
Workplace injuries and deaths continue to be major issues on construction sites, although few cases result in criminal prosecution. It can be difficult to keep abreast of changing legislation, and it’s more difficult still to sometimes understand what your company needs to remain compliant with any laws. Having regular legal guidance can make things a lot easier.