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An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission reinstated a citation and $7,000 fine against an electrical services company after a federal appellate court reversed another judge’s decision to vacate the citation.
In May 2012, federal workplace safety regulators issued a two-item serious citation and penalty notification to Smyrna, Georgia-based Action Electric Co. Inc. after a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection of its Cartersville, Georgia, facility.
The citation alleged a serious violation of OSHA’s lockout/tagout standard for failing to train employees on the purpose and function of an energy control program, but that item was withdrawn during a December 2012 hearing by the Department of Labor. The citation also alleged a serious violation for failing to affix personal lockout or tagout devices on the group lockbox before the employees began maintenance and service work on the fans, for which a $7,000 penalty was proposed.
Action Electric denied applicability of the standard because at the time of the accident the employees were not servicing the fans and the counterweight was not connected to or associated with the operation of the fans. The since-retired administrative law judge overseeing the hearing agreed that the standard was not applicable and vacated the citation in May 2013. However, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July 2017 that the cited standard was applicable and remanded the decision to the review commission with instructions to reinstate the citation.
A different administrative law judge reinstated the citation, affirmed it as serious and assessed a $7,000, penalty, given the high gravity of the violation and the absence of evidence that Action Electric would face undue hardship if the full proposed penalty was assessed.
“An Action Electric employee died from the failure of Action Electric to properly implement (lockout/tagout) procedures for inspection of the cooling machine and counterweight components,” the judge said.
“Although only a few employees were exposed for a relatively short period of time, the violation warrants a higher penalty in consideration of the strong likelihood of injury and few precautions taken by Action Electric to prevent injury,” the judge said.
This decision became a final order of the review commission on Thursday.
An attorney for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on Monday affirmed an administrative law judge’s decision not to vacate the citations issued to a company based on an inspection by a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector whose credential card had expired.