January 31, 2023
Federal investigation into fatal 2022 electrocution in Kansas City finds
Midwest engineering services company again failed to protect workers
US Engineering Services employees electrocuted while servicing HVAC systems in 2021, 2022
KANSAS CITY, MO ‒ A fourth-year apprentice heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician employed by U.S. Engineering Services suffered fatal electrocution after coming in contact with energized parts while repairing HVAC equipment on Aug. 24, 2022, at University Academy, a college prep charter school in Kansas City, Missouri.
A federal investigation found the company failed to follow required procedures which would have prevented the incident, a violation cited by federal investigators in July 2021, when another company HVAC technician was fatally electrocuted while working on a rooftop air conditioning unit not drained of all its energy in Wichita, Kansas.
Specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found U.S. Engineering Services – a subsidiary of the Midwest enterprise, U.S. Engineering – failed to de-energize equipment and prevent equipment from unintentionally starting during repairs or maintenance. OSHA also found the Kansas City-based company failed to conduct hazard assessments to identify personal protective equipment needs and other requirements for field employees at contracted sites and allowed a damaged extension cord to be used at the repair site.
"This worker's death was avoidable. Employers must follow well-known electrical safety procedures set forth in federal regulations and industry-recognized practices," said OSHA Area Director Karena Lorek in Kansas City, Missouri. "Companies whose employees work with electricity must take all necessary steps to make sure they are protected from dangerous electrical hazards so they can return home safely."
OSHA's investigation found the worker was cleaning a chiller unit in the academy's mechanical room when the electrocution happened. While the chiller's fan motor was turned off using the building's HVAC management system, neither a lock and/or tagout was placed on the unit control switch to ensure electrical power was drained from the coils and the air handler.
Investigators also determined neither arc flash personal protective equipment or lockout/tagout equipment was onsite at time of the incident.
OSHA cited U.S. Engineering Services for three serious and two repeat violations and proposed $197,642 in penalties. The agency identified similar violations after the July 2021 fatality. The company settled the case and paid the penalties assessed by OSHA.
U.S. Engineering Services is one of five companies held by U.S. Engineering in Kansas City. Its holdings include U.S. Engineering Construction, U.S. Engineering Metalworks, U.S. Engineering Innovations and USE Real Estate Holdings.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the 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.
Release Number: 23-94-CHI