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Appeals court affirms OSHA finding in burn injury


A serious citation issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to a construction company that failed to ensure “appropriate” personal protective equipment was worn by an electrician who was seriously burned while connecting wires was affirmed by a federal appeals court on Tuesday.

Following worker Timothy Sky’s injury on a job site in Columbus, Nebraska, in February 2017 an OSHA investigation revealed that Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. permitted the electrician to remove his gear when entering part of the worksite that called for protective equipment to be worn, according to documents in Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. v. Eugene Scalia, Secretary of Labor, filed in the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Mr. Sky was hospitalized for several weeks as a result of his burns, according to documents.

Jacobs contested the citation, arguing that the work area where Mr. Sky was at the time of his injury was “deenergized” and fell under an “Electrically Safe Work Condition” under fire protection standards. An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed the citation and imposed an $11,408 penalty, noting that Jacobs had violated the standard requiring PPE when “there are potential electrical hazards,” as stated in OSHA’s policy.

The company appealed further, arguing in part that the administrative law judge erred in concluding “Jacobs failed to establish the affirmative defense of ‘unpreventable employee misconduct’” and that OSHA’s rule “does not impose a legal duty on employers to ensure that employees wear appropriate PPE.” 

Finding Jacobs’s argument “without merit,” the appeals court also affirmed, ruling that the company as an employer is responsible for implementing safety requirements.