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An electrical contractor must pay $25,000 in fines after a worker was electrocuted while attempting to restore power lines after a thunderstorm.
In Secretary of Labor v. JW Powerline LLC, an administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed the citations leveled against a firm in a final decision released Tuesday after holding that the contractor failed to ensure workers followed health and safety policies.
Midland, Texas-based JW Powerline builds and maintains power lines for utility and oil companies. On May 2, 2018, after a thunderstorm knocked out power to a drilling site in rural Texas, a team of workers investigated the issue and the crew foreman identified a downed power line as the source of the problem. The line, however, did not belong to JW Powerline, but to the local power company. While the foreman attempted to repair the line, the power company reengineered the line with 14,400 volts of electricity and the foreman was electrocuted. The crew did not take required safety measures such as locking electrical switches or grounding the broken wires before working on the cables.
A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator issued four citations to JW Powerline for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act standards.
JW Powerline argued that its foreman had been properly trained and that its supervising superintendent — who had only been on the job a week — was unaware that the foreman’s work practices were hazardous and therefore, unforeseeable to the company.
The administrative judge, however, found that the supervisor had extensive experience in the industry and would be aware of the hazardous actions of the foreman. The judge noted that the supervisor was required to complete a job safety analysis before allowing work to begin on the site and the analysis document was missing nearly all vital information. The court also found that JW Powerline failed to show it had a system in place to monitor the behavior of its employees, and no evidence of disciplining employees for violating safety protocols.
As a result, the judge affirmed the citations and penalty of $25,611.
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.