OSHA Cites Corpus Christi Company In Employee Death

Jan. 12, 2004
OSHA cited Fairbairn Electric Inc. in Corpus Christi, Tex., for alleged violations of electrical safety standards. The citations resulted from an inspection triggered by a fatal accident in June.

Proposed penalties total $52,500, primarily for failure to confirm that an electric line was de-energized.

Fairbairn Electric Inc. was cited with one alleged willful and 11 alleged serious violations following an OSHA inspection that began June 17. An employee working at a power distribution substation was helping install a circuit breaker unit cabinet from an elevated airlift (bucket truck) when he grabbed an energized electric line and was electrocuted. Fairbairn Electric, an electrical installation and maintenance company headquartered in Corpus Christi, employs about 40 workers, four of whom were at the Edinburg, Tex., worksite where the employee was killed.

"Verifying that the electrical wires were de-energized before work began on the circuit breaker unit could have prevented this tragedy," said John Giefer, area director at OSHA's Corpus Christi area office. "Employers must follow established safety standards to ensure that workers are protected."

The alleged willful violation was for failing to protect employees from electrocution by verifying the energy level of electrical parts with testing instruments. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The alleged serious violations included failing to provide fall protection equipment, failing to provide employees with fire resistant clothing and other protective equipment, failing to properly train employees on the hazards of energy control and failing to prevent non-qualified employees to work in areas of energized electrical equipment. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

A spokesperson for Fairbairn Electric Inc. said the company has cooperated fully with the OSHA investigation.

Magic Valley Electric Cooperative Inc, a subcontractor from Mercedes, Tex., was also cited by OSHA for two alleged serious violations, with proposed penalties of $9,800, for failing to ensure consistent application of an energy isolation program and failing to maintain oversight of projects contracted out. The communication breakdown between Mercedes and Fairbairn allegedly contributed to the worker's death.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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