Until now, roofing contractors and other employers could be cited by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration when workers were injured or killed, but most of these cases remained misdemeanors with a maximum potential jail term of six months. A new memorandum of understanding between the Department of Justice and OSHA, however, changes that. Under the agreement, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other laws designed to protect workers are being shifted to a criminal section of the Department of Justice where officials will investigate and prosecute worker endangerment cases. The effect, says OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels, is that an employer could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years if convicted of a crime that contributes to the death of an employee. Michaels said "strong criminal prosecution is a powerful tool" when dealing with what he called "low-road employers." One such pending criminal case is against Pennsylvania roofing contractor James J. McCullagh Roofing Inc., cited for 10 safety violations following the death of a worker who fell 45 feet while repairing a church roof in Philadelphia. Among other things, the company was accused of lying to investigators about fall protection provided to workers.
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