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Region 4 News Release
Release Number: 03-1002-ATL (04-001)
Mon., Jan. 5, 2004
Contact: Gail Davis Jo Anne Burgoyne
Phone: (251) 441-6131 (404) 562-2076
Electrical hazards contribute to death of worker; $92,000 in penalties proposed
MOBILE, Ala. -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited ConAgra Foods Refrigerated Foods Co., Inc., for failing to protect workers from electrical hazards following an investigation of a fatal accident that occurred July 8 at the company's Montgomery processing plant. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $92,000.
On the day of the accident, company officials reportedly instructed employees to repair a malfunctioning overhead light fixture. The workers, unable to locate the correct circuit breaker because none were labeled, tried to trip the appropriate breaker by "short circuiting" the line, an unsafe work practice. The breaker did not trip and one worker received an electrical shock. A worker then cut a neutral wire in the electrical junction box, left it unprotected and informed a supervisor that repairs would be made the next morning.
Night-staff employees were not advised that a repair had been attempted, the condition of the wiring or the plan to complete the fixture installation the next morning.
Another repair was attempted during the night shift. Again, two employees each received an electrical shock when they tried at different times to identify the circuit by "shorting" the breaker. An electrician, who was one of the employees who received a shock, advised management officials of the difficulties involved in making the repairs and suggested waiting until the next day. He was, according to OSHA's investigation, instructed to fix the light at that time. Co-workers later found the electrician dead, with a pair of wire strippers in his hand, still in contact with the 277-volt electrical circuit.
"This worker might still be alive if this company had followed its own safe work practices and OSHA regulations," said Ken Atha, OSHA's Mobile area director.
OSHA issued one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $55,000 for allowing employees to work on energized electrical circuits without using safe electrical work practices.
The company received two serious citations with proposed penalties of $12,000 for exposing employees to electrical hazards by allowing unqualified employees to work on energized electrical circuits and by failing to provide employees with personal protective equipment.
The agency also issued one repeat citation to the company with a proposed penalty of $25,000 for failing to properly label circuit breakers at a switch panel box.
The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Staff from OSHA's Mobile area office, located at 3737 Government Blvd., Suite 100, conducted the inspection; phone: (251) 441-6131.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries and illnesses, and protecting America's workers. Safety and health add value to business, the workplace and life. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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