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An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed a serious violation and $11,408 penalty after an employee was hospitalized due to an arc flash.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration dispatched a compliance safety and health officer to the worksite in Columbus, Nebraska, after learning of the February 2017 incident, according to review commission documents in Secretary of Labor v. Jacobs Field Services, North America. After conducting an investigation, the officer concluded that the electrical contractor had a work policy that permitted the injured employee to remove portions of his personal protective equipment after he had determined the load side — but not the line side — of an electrical disconnect box was de-energized. The officer determined that this policy violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and issued a serious violation and penalty, which Jacobs contested.
The officer found that this was not an isolated incident, with other employees exposed in a similar manner, and determined that Jacobs placed too much reliance on the effectiveness of the arc shield as a guard against incidental contact with the line side’s energized components in the absence of complete de-energization of the disconnect box, according to review commission documents.
The administrative law judge determined that Jacobs’ policies regarding electrical hazard assessment and personal protective equipment unnecessarily exposed the employee and similarly situated employees to electrical shock and arc flash hazards. The law judge also rejected Jacobs’ unpreventable employee misconduct defense, finding that the injured employee’s exposure was not the product of him exceeding the scope of his assigned task and that it was the company’s policy that permitted this type of employee exposure in the first place.
An attorney for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.
The law judge’s decision became a final order of the review commission on Friday.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Bellevue, Ohio-based plastics company that allegedly exposed its workers to fall, machine and electrical hazards.