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Owner, Firm Sentenced in Worker's Death

Company owner receives five years probation, a fine of $17,500 and 200 hours of community service for pleading guilty in connection with an employee fatality.


The Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry services (CIS) announced the sentences handed down in Gladwin County Circuit Court against an owner and his company for the death of their employee.

In early November, Edmond D. Woods and Midland Environmental Services Inc. entered guilty pleas in connection with the 1994 fatality of their employee, Mickiel Rennenberg.

Woods received five years probation, payment of the full statutory fine of $17,500, and 200 hours of community service.

The corporation also was required to pay the full fine of $17,500, for a combined total of $35,000.

Both Woods and Midland were also required to abide by all Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) laws and Department of Environmental Quality laws, and must also abide by all the terms of the MIOSHA settlement agreement.

The guilty pleas carried a maximum criminal fine of $35,000 combined, and a maximum possible prison term of five years.

"Edmond Woods willfully and recklessly failed to protect his employees," said CIS Director Kathy Wilbur. "This sentence signals that when appropriate, we will pursue similar actions against employers whose willful violations of workplace safety result in a worker''s death. It is imperative that employers vigorously examine their workplace, and make sure they are providing a work environment free from recognized hazards that can result in serious injuries or death."

On Nov. 1, Woods and Midland Environmental entered guilty pleas to the following:

  • To attempted involuntary manslaughter, on behalf of Woods personally,
  • To attempted involuntary manslaughter, on behalf of the Corporation,
  • To the charge regarding the MIOSHA Willful Criminal, on behalf of Woods personally,
  • To the charge regarding the MIOSHA Willful Criminal, on behalf of the Corporation.

"We hope the circumstances of Mickiel Rennenberg''s needless death will prompt employers to recognize their serious duty to protect their workers," said Wilbur. "Employer have an obligation to create a safe and healthy work environment, and more importantly, to prevent accidents and save lives."

This case is unprecedented because it is the first criminal case in Michigan occupational safety and health regulatory history where an owner and the corporation were held criminally responsible for a workplace fatality.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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