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Serious citation upheld in electrical injury incident

Posted On: Jun. 29, 2017 11:04 AM CST

An administrative law judge of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed a citation against an employer whose worker was seriously injured while working at an electric substation, but reduced the assessed penalty by half.

In October 2014, an employee of Holliston, Massachusetts-based Wayne J. Griffin Electric Inc. was seriously injured when he came into contact with energized equipment during installation of an electric substation at a Merrimack, New Hampshire, worksite, according to a commission document. 

A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection following the incident resulted in a serious citation issued against the employer in April 2015, with a total proposed penalty of $14,000, which the company appealed citing affirmative defenses of unpreventable employee misconduct and multi-employer worksite. 

The judge upheld the serious nature of the citation items, saying that the company’s unpreventable employee misconduct defense failed because it was foreseeable that employees would be exposed to the energized bus bar, which is a system of electrical conductors in a generating or receiving station.

“I find that Griffin did not exercise reasonable diligence to ensure its employees were not working in proximity to an energized circuit,” the judge wrote in the ruling. 

The employer also asserted that because it did not have control over the circuit breaker that it did not create or control the worksite’s hazards and could not abate the hazard. But that argument was also rejected by the judge who found that the company’s own employees were exposed to the violative condition, making it responsible for their safety, and that Griffin had sufficient control to abate the hazard.

“Griffin provided no evidence that it could not comply with the cited standard’s requirement or that it took reasonable alternative steps to protect its employees who were exposed to the hazard,” the judge wrote. 

But the judge grouped the citation items and concluded a $7,000 total penalty was appropriate. 

The commission has adopted the administrative law judge’s decision as a final order as of June 15.

An attorney for the company declined to comment, citing firm policy. A company spokesperson declined to comment pending completion of the appeal process.