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National News Release USDL: 00-278
Monday, Sept. 25, 2000
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming
PHONE: (202) 693-1999

One worker electrocuted, one seriously injured
OSHA PROPOSES $423,500 IN PENALTIES AGAINST ILLINOIS CONTRACTOR FOLLOWING FATALITY INVESTIGATION

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited the L.E. Myers Co. for seven alleged safety violations following investigation of a March 25 fatality that occurred while the company was doing maintenance work on electrical transmission towers in the Plainfield, Ill., area. The proposed penalty totals $423,500.

"We are deeply troubled by the history of fatal accidents at this company," said Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman. "Effective safety programs can and must prevent tragedies like these. The department expects companies to take the necessary steps to protect workers in dangerous jobs. We will take appropriate enforcement action to see that they do."

Since 1972, 37 workers have been killed on L.E. Myers jobs, including 15 who were electrocuted. L.E. Myers has 1,500 employees nationwide; no other company its size in its industry has as many fatalities.

OSHA's investigation determined that at least three of six work crews conducting maintenance work on 345,000-volt de-energized steel transmission towers were exposed to electrical hazards because of improper grounding of the electrical lines. Although the company had identified an acceptable grounding procedure in its safety manuals, L.E. Myers had not trained its crews to use the procedure. Grounding practices actually implemented by the work crews were inadequate and not in line with current industry practice.

"Because of the hazardous nature of this work, the law requires that every worker in this industry must have a thorough briefing on what hazards exist and how to do the work safely," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "By failing to train workers and to enforce company rules on grounding, L.E. Myers exposed 32 workers to a serious hazard that cost a journeyman lineman his life and seriously injured an apprentice."

Specifically, OSHA has proposed three alleged willful instance-by-instance violations for inadequate grounding on three transmission towers, with a total proposed penalty of $210,000 ($70,000 per tower); three additional alleged willful violations for inadequate training, failure to discuss specific electrical hazards and proper grounding procedures at this site during the pre-job briefing and failure to maintain a minimum approach distance from electrical lines, with a total proposed penalty of $210,000; and one alleged serious violation for clothing worn by an employee that could result in severe burns, with a proposed penalty of $3,500.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA regulations. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

OSHA has inspected L.E. Myers 83 times, including 37 fatality investigations. The agency has previously cited the company for similar deficiencies in job briefings, testing and grounding of lines, maintaining minimum approach distances and personal protective equipment. Less than three months before the fatality occurred in Plainfield, Ill., another L.E. Myers worker who was working on the same maintenance contract with Commonwealth Edison, was killed in Mount Prospect, Ill.

L.E. Myers has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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This news release is on the OSHA Internet homepage at http://www.osha.gov.

Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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