Failure to Respect Hazards of Power Lines Sparks OSHA Fines

Despite years of experience in excavating for pipelines near overhead power lines, Dallas-based H.C. Price Co. failed to follow federal safety guidelines for protecting workers, according to citations issued by OSHA. Proposed penalties total $150,000.

"Safety standards are clear about how work around power lines should be conducted," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "There is no excuse for ignoring these regulations."

North Aurora, Ill., OSHA Area Director Charles Shields said the agency opened an investigation into work being performed by the company on Oct. 1 after receiving information that a worker was paralyzed after contacting a power line, and that one month later another worker received an electrical shock, both at locations on Derby Line Road near Genoa, Ill.

"This company has been inspected by OSHA for various accidents five times over the past decade, including a 1994 case in which four workers in Florida were hospitalized following a crane contacting overhead power lines," Shields said.

OSHA's investigation found that H.C. Price Co. employees were unloading materials for use on the Guardian Pipeline Project when the truck boom came in contact with a power line causing one worker to receive an electrical shock. The incident became the fifth known power line contact since the inception of the project in May 2002. The Guardian Pipeline is a 142-mile natural gas pipeline from Joliet, Ill. to Ixonia, Wis.

H.C. Price was fined specifically for crane and excavator operation too close to power lines, and for issues involving fall protection, training and maintaining effective accident prevention programs.

The company has 15 days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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