Cal/OSHA’s criminal investigation into the January 2012 cave-in death of a 36-year-old day laborer in Milpitas, Calif., has resulted in prison for his employer and project manager. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William J. Monahan last Friday sentenced Richard Liu, owner of U.S. Sino Investment, and project manager Dan Luo to two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
On January 28, 2012, Raul Zapata was installing a concrete foundation for a retaining wall at a residential construction site on Calaveras Ridge Drive in Milpitas. The 12-foot high excavation wall collapsed, killing him immediately. The fatal accident occurred three days after a city of Milpitas building inspector issued a stop-work notice to Luo for failure to provide shoring on the excavation.
“California employers must provide workers with the necessary protection and training so they can do their jobs safely,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Relations (DIR). “When our investigations uncover negligent behavior by employers, we exercise our full jurisdiction to protect workers — including referrals to district attorneys for prosecution.” Cal/OSHA is a division in DIR.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation determined that at the time of the incident, neither the victim nor other employees were wearing any head protection. Also, the excavation wall had not been shored up as required by law. Furthermore, the employer did not have a competent person for excavation on the jobsite to ensure that the wall was installed according to Cal/OSHA rules. Finally, Cal/OSHA noted that the employer had no workers’ compensation insurance at the time of the incident.
“When preventable deaths occur on the job, employers must be held accountable,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Cal/OSHA worked closely with the Santa Clara District Attorney to ensure that criminal behavior in the workplace is addressed.”
Cal/OSHA’s civil investigation resulted in the issuance of six citations with penalties totaling $168,175 on June 12, 2012, including five citations for serious violations.