December 22, 2022
Administrative law judge upholds OSHA citations and penaltiesto Vermont-based telecommunications contractor in employee's death
Eustis Cable failed to provide workers with necessary training and equipment
NEW YORK – An administrative law judge with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has affirmed U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations and $24,290 in penalties issued to Eustis Cable Enterprises Ltd., a Brookfield, Vermont, telecommunications contractor, following the death of an employee at an Andover, New York, worksite.
On January 13, 2020, a company work crew was lashing fiber optic cable to a support strand between a series of utility poles when the lashing machine malfunctioned. The crew did not have a ladder or other appropriate tools with them to reach the machine. Instead, in an effort to fix the machine, the foreman went out onto the strand, using his climbing belt as a seat as he advanced hand over hand down the line. Midway back to the pole, he lost his grip on the wire, the climbing belt slid up his back and cinched at the neck and he was asphyxiated as he hung suspended from the climbing belt.
OSHA's Buffalo area office investigated and cited Eustis Cable Enterprises Ltd. on June 10, 2020, for serious violations for failing to provide the employees with required safeguards, including effective training and personal protective equipment. The employer contested the citations and penalties to the review commission on July 1, 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the case for OSHA, deposing multiple witnesses during pretrial discovery, amending OSHA's citations and developing a detailed trial record on which the judge based his decision. Following an April 2022 trial, Judge Dennis L. Phillips issued a decision upholding OSHA's amended citations and penalties on October 31, 2022. The decision became a final order of the review commission on December 16, 2022.
"It is vital that employers properly train employees and provide them with effective personal protective equipment so they can perform their work safely and return home at the end of each workday. Failure to do so can have life-threatening consequences for workers," said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson in New York.
"This decision should serve as a reminder for employers that the U.S. Department of Labor will pursue appropriate legal actions to enforce safety and health protections for employees," said regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.
OSHA's Buffalo Area Office conducted the inspection. Attorney Allison L. Bowles of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the case for OSHA.
Secretary of Labor v. Eustis Cable Enterprises LTD
OSHRC Docket No. 20-1006
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