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Construction firm must pay penalties following electrocution death

Power lines by house

A construction company must pay $25,000 in fines for safety violations that led lead to the death of a worker, an administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission held in a final order of the commission released Thursday.

In Secretary of Labor v. New Finish Construction LLC, the judge affirmed two citations relating to working near energized sources, but vacated three citations and their accompanying penalties.

New Finish Construction, LLC, based in Fairchance, Pennsylvania, performed residential construction services. On Dec. 19, 2017, the company owner and two of his workers finished construction on a residential metal roof in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and the owner removed the roof anchor plate to toss it to the ground. However, when the owner tossed the cap, it fell on the top of a set of electrical power lines running parallel to the side of the house. One of the employees climbed a ladder propped against the house and, using a metal pole, tried to dislodge the roof anchor from the power line — which the owner and workers had believed to be a telephone line — when he was electrocuted and fell from the ladder. He was transported to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival.

A compliance safety and health officer of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the fatality, and the company received five serious citations for alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, totaling nearly $32,000.

The inspector alleged that New Finish failed to initiative and maintain safety programs and conduct frequent inspections, permitted an employee to work next to power circuits without deenergizing them, failing to train employees on fall hazards and proper ladder use, and failed to ensure ladders used in working with electrical equipment were outfitted with nonconductive siderails.

New Finish appealed the decision, and the commission judge vacated three of the citations, but affirmed two.

The owner testified that he inspected the worksite, materials, and equipment every day before starting work, and held meetings each morning with his workers, although he did not have a written safety program, the judge noted that the standard cited by the OSHA investigator does not require a written program. The judge also found that the OSHA investigator improperly cited the company for a lack of education on fall protection and ladder safety, finding that the owner’s testimony showed that the deceased employee had years of experience and daily reminders of proper fall protection and ladder use, and violated three citations.

However, the judge held that New Finish failed to ensure that workers in proximity to electric power were protected against electrical shock, finding that the owner had constructive knowledge that the line could be energized, and failed to comply with the standard. The judge also affirmed the citation for failing to have nonconductive rails on a ladder that could come into contact with electricity, despite the fact that “a nonconductive ladder would have made no difference in the unfortunate electrocution of this individual.” Therefore, the judge affirmed those two serious citations and the proposed penalty of $12,934 for each of the two violations.

The attorney for New Finish did not immediately respond to a request for comment.




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