OSHA cited Red Simpson Inc. (RSI) and fined the company $168,000 after two employees suffered serious burns at a Panama City, Fla., job site.
According to OSHA, two RSI workers were replacing an old power line pole with a new, taller pole when the aerial lift in which they were working came in contact with live overhead power lines. The employees got second and third degree burns.
"Too many Florida construction workers are injured or killed on the job," said Lana Graves, OSHA''s Mobile, Ala., area director. "And too many of the injuries and deaths are the result of electrocution accidents."
OSHA''s inspection of the Panama City accident resulted in two willful and five serious citations against RSI.
Penalties totaling $140,000 were assessed for the willful violations which included a citation for allowing employees to come too close to energized parts without requiring them to wear "sleeves" insulated to protect their upper arms and shoulders.
The unprotected workers'' proximity to overhead power lines brought metal parts on the aerial lift in contact with live wiring which caused the accident, according to OSHA.
In addition, one of the employees was working 55 feet above the ground without a full body harness or other fall protection.
Tools and metal material cluttering an aerial lift, as was the case on this job site, can lead to damage of the insulated lining of the bucket.
This potential exposure to electrical shock accounted for one of five serious citations issued by OSHA.
The other four included failure to train workers about maintaining minimum safe distances from energized overhead power lines and about required testing of protective rubber gloves; failure to perform the actual tests that ensure the integrity of the insulated rubber gloves; failure to require safety glasses when cutting wood or wires, and permitting metal parts on the aerial lift to come in contact with live wiring.
"This employer has a significant history of OSHA citations for violation involving energized overhead power lines," said Graves. "Since 1998, RSI has been cited five times for this type of violation and four of the five were directly related to fatalities."
Graves continued, "The company took no action at this job site to enforce its own safety manual which addresses requirements for minimum clearance from overhead power lines and the need for fall protection when working from aerial lifts. Employers like RSI are one of the reasons OSHA began the CARE (Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis) program in Florida."
In 1999, OSHA launched CARE in response to the high rate of construction accidents in the state.
The program follows extensive outreach activities with an equally extensive inspection and enforcement effort.
Because fall and electrocution accidents accounted for 63 percent of the total construction fatalities in 1999, the agency introduced two new special emphasis programs under CARE, one targeting falls and the other electrocutions.
by Virginia Sutcliffe