July 31 - August 6, 2016

After being found guilty in connection with the death of a 22-year-old worker on a New York City construction site, a general contractor was handed a sentence requiring it to fund and take part in a public service announcement regarding construction site safety. Was this sentence fair?

Answers Votes
No. The sentence went too far and impedes on the company's First Amendment rights. 69%
No. The sentence was far too lenient. 21%
Yes. The sentence will help the city push for safer construction sites. 9%

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Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Fatalities; Health and safety; Laws and litigation

Comment from Catherine Brooks of Eco-Strip, (8/1/2016, 9:58 AM)

Thank goodness 70% said too lenient. Community service to me doesn't make the contractor feel sufficient pain for this fatal neglect in safety practices.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/2/2016, 8:05 AM)

Does retribution aimed at one do more good than awareness for many? I don't know the answer, but I do know big fines and jail time in a high density urban environment are forgotten about before the ink on a newspaper that'll never be read has dried. There is a lot of value in shame and it's unfortunate that shaming as punishment has been largely pushed aside in favor of anonymous fines and jail sentences that principals at a business can often lawyer themselves out of serving. There are a lot of variables, for sure, but if the adjudicated party can spend there way out of serving jail time it seems like encouragement to others who will know there's a price on getting out of jail (which makes the lawyer's fees a sound investment). If that same money is spent on bus stop posters and permit board placards it's money that's basically "thrown away", from a business perspective. I'm not claiming to know the best way to punish wrongdoing, but I do think it's a complex issue and the punishing parts of a punishment are not always seen in a headline but are felt long after the story has been forgotten.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/2/2016, 8:06 AM)

"Spend their way out...". It's early.

Comment from Phil Kabza, (8/3/2016, 10:07 AM)

I'm with Jesse. I think we should consider bringing back the stocks (see your old history book) and publicly shaming crimes like these. Too many construction sites still treat worker safety as an impingement on their free-wheeling macho culture. If you are a contractor or supervisor, you are responsible. As for the First Amendment question - did the poll writer or poll takers read the First Amendment? This would be a good time to do so. While sitting in the stocks, the negligent party would still be free to exercise their First Amendment rights, if anyone wanted to listen to why they thought they shouldn't be responsible for the safety of their workers.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/3/2016, 10:58 AM)

Although public shaming like the stocks might work for an individual, it doesn't work for a corporate entity. If the company was found guilty and not the CEO, COO etc., etc. (which is the case here...though a couple foremen are also having their day in court), then there is no body to put in the stocks. For some companies, a PSA campaign can be a cheap option to some of the fines that could be imposed....but it means poor publicity and they hate it. If companies are willing to put up a fight to avoid it, then perhaps it is time for some creative sentencing. Most job sites have security fences covered with advertising for the companies involved, right? Well, why not a "public shaming" on safety for the company that is as bad as the stocks but can be done to a corporate entity. One banner required for each jobsite the company that's been found guilty has...doesn't need to be elaborate, even just text... "Company X ignored safety regulations and killed a worker. Company X will do better in the future." or "Company X ignored safety regulations and was given a $XX,XXX fine. Company X will do better in the future." Public shaming, pure and simple. If the banners are required to be up for 30 days, the public and workers can see it and it might just spark a change.

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