Wisconsin: On Sept. 17, 2012, a worker employed by Highway Technologies Inc. was fatally injured while working with equipment that came into contact with overhead power lines during highway work in western Wisconsin. OSHA issued 10 safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $448,000 and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Highway Technologies Inc. was performing guardrail and sign installation for a 13-mile stretch of I-94 near Menomonie, Wis., under contract with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation when the incident occurred.
“Highway Technologies failed to protect its workers from serious electrocution hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Multiple instances of the same violation over a period of time clearly demonstrate a willful failure to comply with basic safety and health standards. Employers must take steps to eliminate hazards and provide a safe working environment.”
OSHA issued citations for six willful violations of failing to ensure that parts of the equipment being operated were not within 10 feet of a power line, exposing workers to electrical shock and electrocution hazards. These citations also include instances of failing to ensure that any part of the machinery was not within 6 feet of an overhead power line while the machinery was traveling beneath the power lines.
Four serious violations also cited include failing to identify electrical work zones, determine if any part of the equipment being operated would be closer than 20 feet of a power line, train each worker on safe clearance distances from power lines and evaluate that each employee understood the training and risks of working near overhead power lines.
Due to the nature of the hazards and the violations cited, Highway Technologies Inc. has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure future compliance with the law. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.
Houston-based Highway Technologies Inc. employs about 1,500 workers in 13 states installing highway guardrails, crash attenuators, barrier walls and signage. Prior to this investigation, the company had been inspected by OSHA 10 times since 2007, resulting in citations for nine serious violations. One of these inspections was initiated based on employee injuries sustained from contacting an overhead power line while installing a highway sign.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Story via ehstoday.com
Armstrong, BC: The workplace death of an Armstrong teenager in 2011 has officially been declared accidental. Provincial coroner Andrew Cave reported that Cullen James Rowan, 18, died of electrocution while at work in Armstrong on Sept. 22, 2011. Cave said Rowan had completed preparing a scissor lift and moving it to the back of the work yard where there were six high-voltage electrical power lines and a neutral conductor line running parallel with the rear fence. “Normal practice would have been to raise the lift to its full height using the ground control panel,” said Cave in his three-page report. “For an undetermined reason, Mr. Rowan had raised the lift while on its platform (using a hand-held control).”
A witness to the incident saw Rowan on the elevated platform on the lift, and stated that “it appeared as if he was moving his right arm in a defensive manner.” “There was a loud bang and a bright flash, and Mr. Rowan collapsed onto the platform of the lift,” said Cave. Two other people witnessed the accident, staff was alerted and 911 was called. Cave said an exam of the power lines showed Rowan had come into close proximity of one of the 25,000 volt distribution lines, and that a flashover (arc flash) – an electrical arc passing through the air conducting through him and the lift to ground – had occurred. “A distance of approximately 2.5 centimetres from Mr. Rowan’s hand to the line would have been sufficient for the electricity to flashover,” said Cave.
WorkSafeBC investigated and discovered Rowan had been employed at the yard for slightly more than two months. His training was primarily given through verbal direction as each new task was encountered. “Interviews with other employees indicated that there was a general understanding of the dangers surrounding the raising of machinery near the power lines,” said Cave. The required minimum distance between any object and the power lines was three meters. One operator positioned below the power lines told investigators that there were no visual reference points to establish how close the power lines were, making a misjudgment of distance possible.
WorkSafeBC has provided direction to the employer in regard to increasing training and awareness of hazards.
Story via vernonmorningstar.com
Santiago, Chili: This is the horrific moment a man performing acrobatics on the top of an electricity pylon was electrocuted.
The man, named only as Miguel, touched one of the high-voltage cables with his legs as he swung back and forth on the beams yesterday.
The contact with the live wires killed him instantly, to the horror of onlookers who had gathered to watch the scene.
Emergency services in the Chilean capital of Santiago had been called after he was spotted ‘playing around’ on the pylon.
Firefighters spent 30 minutes fruitlessly trying to coax him down before he made the fatal wrong move.
The moment was caught in dramatic amateur video footage.
Story via mirror.co.uk
Geraldton, Autralia: The state’s energy watchdog has charged Western Power over the electrocution of a 17-year-old girl in Geraldton.
Amber Finch died after she was struck by a damaged power line left dangling by a storm, while walking home with friends in the dark in January 2011.
Two friends who tried to help her were also injured.
Energy Safety has charged Western Power under electricity network safety regulations and the matter is due in the Geraldton Magistrates Court in April.
Story via Yahoo! News
New Helhi, INDIA: Police failed to make a breakthrough in the death case of a Noida-based businessman who died of electrocution after falling into a swimming pool in Sector 8 on Friday. Neeraj Garg, owner of Noida-based water-proofing company Nivedita Chemicals, went to inspect the swimming pool of Archohm, an architectural firm. Meanwhile, mystery over the death of Garg deepened as an official of the company, who was arrested on Friday was been released on bail on Saturday.
Garg was electrocuted on Friday morning when he fell into a swimming pool that had high-voltage current flowing through a live wire. Police have registered an FIR under Section 304A of the IPC against Saurabh Gupta (architect and managing director), SP Gupta (engineer and director) and Shiv Dutt Sharma of Archohm, an architectural firm constructing the pool on its roof. Police had arrested RK Gupta, father of Saurabh Gupta but later released him on bail. Police also interrogated several employees of Archohm. “We are still investigating and it would be too early to set the responsibility,” said a police official.
Story via dailypioneer.com
Huntington, WV: A Huntington city employee received burns Tuesday afternoon from an electrical shock at the floodwall pumping station at the mouth of Four Pole Creek.
Cabell County 911 received word of the incident at 12:55 p.m. A neighbor reported hearing a big bang, and initial reports indicated there had been an explosion.
Crews later revised that report, saying that an electrical incident occurred. The explosion-like sound was linked to electrical arc flash inside of the pump station, according to Huntington Deputy Fire Chief Brian Grieco and Cabell County Emergency Medical Service Director Gordon Merry.
Floodwall Superintendent Steve Riggs said the injured employee was working with two colleagues inside of the pump station at the time.
The unidentified worker received electrical, or flash, burns to his face and hands, Riggs said. He was conscious and walking at the scene.
Riggs explained the building houses electrical equipment and an oil breaker. The facility helps officials control water levels on Four Pole Creek in times of high water.
Mayor Kim Wolfe was among those who visited the hospital to check on the employee’s condition. Wolfe could not be reached for comment.
David Hagley, the city’s public service director, said he did not know exactly what occurred and could not comment until an investigation had been completed.
Story via heralddispatch.com
Troy, MI: Noise from a large explosion startled residents on Fifth Avenue between Federal and Jacob streets late Thursday afternoon. City of Troy Fire Department officials later said the explosion was caused by an electrical fire underground.
“We were sitting out here talking when we heard a sound like something blew up,” said resident Ida Pryer. “I saw smoke coming out from the sewer but I thought it was coming from the car.”
Another Fifth Avenue resident, Debra, said she saw the manhole cover come up from the ground and land in front of a parked car. She said she immediately called 911 and the Troy Police Department.
Battalion Chief Ray Davis said he was informed by National Grid that the isolated incident began when an arc in a 34,500 volt power line underground caused an electrical fire which forced the manhole cover to be lifted off the ground. The arc shorted out and kept the problem from spreading to other areas.
“It’s unusual in the City of Troy but not so unusual based on the infrastructure of the older cities where some of the electrical lines are older and having issues,” Davis said, adding it is also unusual to see manhole covers flying around.
Davis said the scene would be turned over to National Grid.
Story via troyrecord.com
Bay Area, CA: Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) officials, after reviewing surveillance video, are sticking with their story that no fire was involved in the Sept. 16 incident that filled Civic Center Station with smoke and forced the station to be evacuated.
A preliminary investigation found that the incident was a large electrical arc, essentially a giant spark, they said Tuesday. It caused a bright flash of orange that shot up the side of the train and over its roof, produced loud noises and generated huge clouds of smoke.
The arc flash was likely produced when a piece of metallic debris caused a short circuit, said Don Allen, BART’s chief engineer. But witnesses described seeing a wall of flames. “This was not a fire in the sense of flames burning any solid material or causing any structural damage, but the bright flash of the arc has a fiery appearance,” he said. “There was a cloud of heavy smoke, so it is understandable that to some passengers it seemed like fire.”
BART officials released surveillance video from two cameras on the station platform and two on the concourse. One camera shows a train pulling into the station, heading toward the East Bay, when there’s a bright flash that looks like a fireball from the rear. On the other side of the platform, the video shows passengers moving away from the train as an orange burst of light illuminates the platform. One, holding a bike, appears to fall or be knocked to the platform, colliding with another passenger.
Allen said investigators did not find any debris on the tracks but found some drops of molten metal. He said the arcing is similar to the torch used in welding, which uses 30 volts of electricity to produce a hot, bright arc across a 1/4-inch gap. BART is powered by 1,000 volts of electricity, and the arc produced was likely over a 12- to 14-inch gap – the distance between the electric third rail and the nearest rail carrying the train.
“It’s like welding but powered by a much more powerful source,” he said.
BART plans to share the information with Muni, which shares the station, and with the state Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail transit safety. Andrew Kotch, a commission spokesman, said the agency is conducting its own review and is expected to discuss the incident Thursday.
Story via sfgate.com
The Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2010 with a promise of getting tough on employers who have not honored their employee’s safety and health and OSHA’s direction.
By all indications the SVEP is doing just that.
As of this June, OSHA reported that 332 of the nation’s employers have found their way onto OSHA’s SVEP list. SVEP concentrates on inspecting employers that have demonstrated indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate workplace violations. Employers that have been identified as severe violators can expect heightened inspection rates and increased fines when additional occupational safety and health violations occur.
Some of the nation’s largest corporations, such as Verizon, Tyson Foods, Wegman’s and Cooper Tire & Rubber, all have the dishonor of being a members of this exclusive club. On March 19, Verizon became a member of SVEP after a worker came into contact with high-voltage electrical wires in Brooklyn, New York. OSHA says that this electrocution was preventable.
During OSHA’s investigation (#315915249), the agency cited Verizon with repeat offenses, such as failure to provide personal protective equipment like rubber gloves for workers exposed to high voltage. Verizon was also not providing employees with electrial safety training or safe practices for working around high voltage power lines. In addition, Verizon was not keeping accurate occupational safety and health records, and it appears that Verizon was cooking the books by reporting a fatality as an injury on OSHA Form 300.
Consistent violators of the OSH Act belong in a program such as the SVEP, as their own fraudulent actions have won them this special recognition. Workers in the United States should not have to tolerate such inappropriate activity from their employers, and the SVEP shines light on industries’ bad actors.
It is also important to point out the external effect SVEP will have on employers when they learn the details of the program. Increased fines and targeted inspections could scare industry straight into upholding its obligations under the OSH Act. We hope they are paying attention.
Unfortunately, OSHA is now offering habitual offenders of the OSH Act a pathway out of the SVEP. According to OSHA, an employer may be considered for removal from the program by an OSHA Regional Administrator after:
- A period of three years from the date of the final disposition of the SVEP inspection citation items including: failure to contest, settlement agreement, Review Commission final order, or court of appeals decision.
- All affirmed violations have been abated, all final penalties have been paid, and the employer has abided by and completed all settlement provisions, and has not received any additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or at any related establishments.
The SVEP program has been a step in the right direction, and will hold habitual violators like Verizon accountable to the OSH Act, at least for three years. Three years on the SVEP list, however, is not enough, even with the programs increased fines and oversight. Employers should have to recommit themselves to training employees best practices and demonstrate comprehensive plans of action to mitigate potential hazards at the very least. A bold step for OSHA would be to pursue SVEP participants in criminal court.
Changing employers’ attitudes regarding occupational safety and health has been a constant battle in the United States. OSHA has been engaged in this fight for more than 40 years. One would hope that employers someday will realize that workers are more productive under safe working conditions, and programs like SVEP will not be necessary. But for now, OSHA should keep bad actors on the list.
Story via opposingviews.com
Muscat, Oman: The Muscat Electricity Distribution Company (MEDC) has blamed civil contractors for the electrocution of two workers, who fell on overhead power lines in Mabella area recently. “The two workers were electrocuted when the scaffolding they were moving fell on an overhead line in Mabella,” according to a press release issued by the MEDC. Following this incident, the MEDC has advised civil contractors, especially those working near overhead lines, to adhere strictly to safety measures.
According to the preliminary reports, the incident occurred when the scaffolding that was being moved by the workers fell on the 11KV lines, causing a direct contact to ground.
ttp://gulfnews.advertserve.com/servlet/click/zone?zid=998&pid=0&custom5=Gulf&custom6=Oman&lookup=true&position=1″ target=”_top”>< IMG src=”http://gulfnews.advertserve.com/servlet/view/banner/image/zone?zid=998&pid=0&custom5=Gulf&custom6=Oman&position=1″ height=”" width=”" hspace=”0″ vspace=”0″ border=”0″ alt=”Click Here!”>< /A>“Lack of proper safety training led to the labourers’ ignorance of the dangers of a high scaffolding toppling onto overhead lines,” Majid Al Rahbi, electrical safety engineer at MEDC, said in the press release.“It was extremely dangerous to try to move scaffolding of that height when it is erected closed to overhead lines without partly dismantling it into manageable sections,” he explained.
Sultan Al Hinai, Health and Safety Awareness-in-charge at the MEDC, lashed out at the contractors for their ‘negligence’. “The two workers were not following basic safety procedures. Every worker has a responsibility to work safely and as an employer, the company has to bear responsibility to look after the safety of its workers on site,” he said.
The MEDC, meanwhile, is also considering a proposal to make it mandatory for any scaffolding and construction work near MEDC overhead lines to be first authorised by MEDC.
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