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Shocking Fatality Leads to Large Fine for Employer

The July 5 electrocution death of a worker who came into contact with energized power lines results in a $62,600 fine for a Massachussets employer.

The July 5 electrocution death of a worker who came in contact with energized power lines at a Blackstone, Mass., sewer installation project has resulted in $62,600 in proposed fines against his employer. The worker was standing in the elevated bucket of an excavator attempting to tie together overhead wiring when the arm of the excavator contacted an energized power line, killing him instantly.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited ODF Contractors of Dorchester, Mass., for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the accident.

"The inspection found that the excavator was operating within 10 feet of energized lines, a clear violation of OSHA standards with which this employer was certainly familiar," said Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for Central Massachusetts. "As a result, we have issued a willful citation for failing to maintain a safe distance from the lines and proposed a fine of $56,000 for that hazard."

A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Three serious citations, totaling $6,600 in fines, were also issued. Two are for allegedly exposing employees to serious shock hazards by allowing the worker to use the excavator bucket without first deenergizing the power lines and for lack of ground fault protection for employees using a submersible pump to remove water from a trench. The third citation is for placing the excavator at the edge of an excavation, into which it could fall in the event of a collapse of the trench's walls. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from the cited condition, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

ODF Contractors has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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