Electrocution continues to be one of the leading causes in construction worker deaths as part of the “fatal four.” Like the other fatal causes, electrocution deaths can be entirely preventable. The workers need to maintain a safe distance when operating near power lines and must use properly inspected and insulated power supplies to avoid any serious accidents.
However, many continue to suffer despite the numerous warnings. This year, two construction worker electrocution deaths in Pennsylvania had a sufficient amount of media coverage to warrant examination. These accidents can serve as a warning to construction workers on how to approach the ongoing issue.
Three shocked workers, one big penalty
Earlier in April, three construction workers were repairing the sewer system on a street in Johnstown. The large machine they were using ended up hitting high-tension power lines carrying 23,000 volts of electricity. One worker died from electrocution and the other two went to the hospital to receive treatment for their shocks. The neighborhood lost power, and the company that employed the workers told officials that they would cooperate with OSHA to determine the accident cause.
Half a year later, OSHA cited the company for workplace safety and health violations and fined them for over $300,000. They determined through their investigation that the company did not properly train the employees on confined space safety and placed the employers in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. This demonstrates how thoroughly OSHA will look into an accident so they can lessen as many construction fatalities as they can. The hefty fine will encourage the company to incorporate the necessary additional elements in their training.
Power line problems
In July, an employee of a roofing contractor was working at Crestwood Industrial Park. The boom of the lift he was using to hoist materials on the roof eventually hit a high-voltage power-line, which electrocuted and sent him to the ground as the lift burst into flames. Since this took place a few months after the Johnstown incident, OSHA is still investigating the matter to determine the man’s death and the company’s liability.
Both of these tragic events could have been avoided if more precautions were taken around the power lines. Employers need to make sure to follow all of OSHA’s electrocution safety guidelines to avoid dealing with employee deaths and the financial penalties that would follow.